Being a Better Writer: Tragedy and Hubris

“All the honors go to the tragedian for chewing up the scenery, while the comedian, who has to be much more subtle to be funny, is just loudly criticized when he doesn’t come through.”
Attributed to Edmund Gwenn

Welcome back, readers! It’s Monday here, which means that it’s time for another Being a Better Writer post! Even better, today’s topic, Tragedy and Hubris, is the last topic on Topic List IX! Which means we’ll be moving to list X next week! New topics, new things to discuss …

Anyway, that’s for next week. But while we’re on the topic of not being quite on topic yet, don’t forget that the Rolling Sale is still going strong with Colony up for grabs at 63% off. As long as you’re reading this article in the week it released, that is. If you’re not well … check the book out anyway. Check the books tab!

Okay, so that out of the way, let’s get into today’s topic: Tragedy and hubris. Some of you might be wondering why I started a discussion on the topic of tragedy with a long-form version of the famous saying “Dying is easy, comedy is hard” since such a quote is usually used to discuss comedy (and in fact, I have listed it before as a reason for not yet being comfortable discussing comedy). And yes, while is is often associated with comedy for what it says, I think there’s some value in looking at what the original attribution says about tragedy as well, even if in jest.

Yes, make no mistakes, while it roundly mocks tragedy … it does make a good point about a popular perception of tragedy anyone who wants to write tragedy should consider: That it’s easy. Which, in turn, is why you see tragedy being an extremely common theme among young writers. Especially in fanfiction. Oh man, go to any fanfiction site that uses tags as a way of sorting/categorizing stories and select their “tragedy” tag and you will be flooded with stories bearing the mark. Enough to drown yourself in a sea of salty, melodramatic tears.

Now, those of you who are familiar with some of my prior postings may have noticed a “red flag” in that last sentence that may have brought pause: Melodramatic. Yes, that term that describes overblown, overdone, over-emphasized sadness and suffering that’s just so sad you really should be sad and why aren’t you sad yet! Yes, I use that term, and I use it here with purposeful intent, because quite honestly, 99% of those tragedies you find by using a tag search like that aren’t tragedies. They come back to this misconception that “tragedy is easy.” A new writer wants to write something “good,” and whether acting consciously or not, decides to write a “tragedy” because it’s easy.

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Being a Better Writer: Micro-Blast #5 – Logistics, Combat, Social Activism

Hello readers! Welcome back after another weekend! I hope yours went well. Mine had some pretty good occurrences (one of which I won’t spoil just yet) and was also a good opportunity to step back and assess everything I’ve got on my plate at the moment. Especially with regards to writing, because Jungle is in it’s last quarter on the first draft, which means it’s soon going to be time for me to switch gears over to Shadow of an Empire and start cleaning that up for publication!

My bad, this isn’t a news post. I just got a little excited there. The weekend is my recharge time, usually, so it’s nice to come back with a bit of a boost.

Anyway, time for a Micro-Blast! Beginning, as usual, with a quick recap of what a Micro-Blast is. For the new or the uninitiated, it’s usually done when I near the end of a topic list and have a few leftover topics that don’t quite seem worthy of a full post on their own, but are still little useful tidbits of advice. Rather than discarding them outright, though, I decided to just bundle them into one larger post that addresses each one individually. Because honestly, discussing these isn’t bad. They’re just not large enough topics to warrant more than a few paragraphs’ worth of material. But there is still value in discussing them.

So, now that you’re caught up, let’s get this post underway and clean out Topic List IX!

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Being a Better Writer: When Characters Fail

Welcome back, readers, to another Monday Being a Better Writer post! Today we’ve got a request topic, one that hopefully I’ll be able to do justice to the satisfaction of the one who asked. In addition, it’s also one of the last topics left on Topic List IX! We’re close to Topic List X, and I’m glad, because I’ve already got some pretty neat topics on there to go over.

But that’s in the future. For the now, let’s get going on today’s topic: When Characters Fail.

I’ll admit, I bounced around a bit on topic titles for this one, and not without good reason. For a moment it was “Failing to Succeed,” and then almost became “Letting Characters Fail.” But finally, I settled on When Characters Fail, rather than on letting, and I think that distinction is important.

See, if we go into our characters failing with the mindset that we’re “letting” them fail (and in fact, are), then we might be approaching our story in the wrong way. Sure, we’re giving our characters the “try/fail” cycle that they need, and they’re going through it, but here’s the thing about “letting” them fail. When we “let” our characters fail, then they’re not the ones acting on the try/fail cycle. We as authors are. We’re looking at our story and going “Okay, you can fail here, this is a good spot for it,” and letting the failure happen where we decide it works, rather than simply letting the characters be free to fail when their own choices drop it on them.

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Being a Better Writer: Forward, Pioneers

Today is Pioneer Day in the state I live in, a day when everyone celebrates the forward-looking, pioneer spirit of the old west that sent so many explorers forth. And I thought “You know, I can make a Being a Better Writer post out of that.”

Which brings us to the here and now, where I am. Writing this post. About pioneers. Man, that was a short recap. Like the thirty-second backstory of a cartoon. Anyway …

So, pioneers. Don’t worry, this is still a writing post. This is still about sitting down and putting hands to keyboard, pen, whatever, and creating a world of wonderful characters and adventure, tragedy, comedy, or what have you. But what does it have to do with pioneers?

Well, I’m going to take a step back further in history to look at an earlier explorer. Namely, a man who put his name on history for the ages by insisting that India could be reached not by traveling around Africa or over land, but by sailing west across the Atlantic Ocean. Now, we know this man as Christopher Columbus, who stumbled across the entirely unexpected Americas and got a lot of credit for discovering them in the modern eras. And yes, I know the vikings and the people that lived there beat him there, but Columbus was the one that put the Americas on the center stage and kicked off … well, just about everything that lead to the shape of the modern world.

Anyway, why do I bring up this story? For one reason, and one reason only: Most everyone considered Columbus insane. They thought the voyage he was attempting was going to be too treacherous. Pop-culture claimed that his detractors thought he would sale off of the edge of the Earth (despite people knowing back then that the Earth wasn’t flat). A lot of people simply thought he would get caught up in a storm and he and all his men die at sea.

Basically, there were a lot of fearful reasons that no one had ever attempted the journey west before. And if they had, they hadn’t made it back, so there was more to those fears.

Of course, we know the result of this story. Columbus secured his funding at last for his trading expedition. And as it turned out, his calculations were wrong. There wasn’t a direct, westward path to India because someone had put a blasted continent in the way (not that they realized this for a while). But soon they did, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. All it took was someone willing to take a chance on sailing west, against the “common current” that ruled the minds of the current climate.

Why I am I telling you this and what does it have to do with writing? Well, let’s look at one other success story first. Have you seen Stranger Things?

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Being a Better Writer: Escalating Tension

All right, so this topic has been on the list for a while, and it’s high time it gets crossed off. Which means … I’ve got to talk about it. Time to see how much knowledge I can impart! So here goes!

So, before on this site (several times in fact, if memory serves) we’ve spoken about the three act structure, or the rise and fall of action, or pacing … Like I said, if memory serves, this topic has come up quite a bit. Anyway, with that, the classic plot timeline has come into play. You know the one. Rising and falling action, a climax, all that jazz? Hang on, I made one at one point. Take a look.

Yup. That thing. Like I said, we’ve talked about it before. And we’ve touched on key points, such as the falling tension, the climax, the resolution, the stinger, or even the various parts. But one part of that timeline that I don’t believe has ever been talked about on this blog is the moments of rising tension.

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Being a Better Writer: Showing Character and Setting with Small Details

First of all, I apologize for how late this post is (it’s Tuesday). Turns out, I’d almost forgotten that I had a meeting at my part-time Monday. Now, I can’t work currently, but I can attend a meeting. So I did, forgetting until Sunday night that this automatically conflicted with the Monday morning Being a Better Writer post. I then got up a little early to try and work something out, but didn’t get too far before I had to head off to work.

Side note: The knee is still recovering. Trying to get my back pay for the several weeks worth of work I was unable to do. We’ll see what happens. Wish me luck!

Anyway, so today’s topic. I want to dive right into this one headway, because it’s a good one. Often here before I’ve talked about show versus tell, right? And yes, that’s show versus tell, not show don’t tell. The first is proper (all things in balance). The latter is overblown purple prose taught as a guideline to push writers into showing, but then unfortunately not untaught.

Anyway, there are, if memory serves, several blog posts on that very topic here on the site. But I want to go one step further and tackle something that usually comes right on the heels of telling someone to “show” something.

The question of “how?”

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Being a Better Writer: Audience and Shifting Reader Culture

Hey everyone, welcome back! I hope you all had a pretty good weekend. Mine was … actually, I don’t think I’ve posted about this on here, but coming up on three weeks ago now at work I twisted my knee. Which is why my posting on here suddenly got really regular. Ever twisted your knee? Well, it’s not fun. It’s not something that requires surgery, nor that makes you completely incapable of using your leg … but it does pretty much prevent you from hobbling more than a few-hundred feet in total (and that brings about swelling and some serious pain). It’s not an injury you can have and at the same time do a job involving lots of walking and other physical activity … which means I’ve had time off from work (time I hopefully get paid for under workman’s comp since it was an injury from work; but we’ll see on that angle). So I’ve been doing a lot of writing.

Anyway, that’s a long, roundabout way of putting context to saying that my weekend was pretty good. I hit my monthly quota early (surprise surprise, right?) and, by combining two months of quota rewards (each time I meet a monthly quota I spend $5 on myself), picked up Hollow Knight. It’s a game, not a book. Fantastic game so far, though. It’s a brilliantly-conceived little world, with a lot of charm and wonderful art direction. Blended with fantastic design. A someone who loves the Metroid games, Hollow Knight is going right up there with Shadow Complex.

Okay, okay, you’re not hear to read about games … though I’ll admit I’m a bit tempted to do a piece on Hollow Knight‘s particular style of storytelling, as well as a few other games that do similar, and how it’s influenced my own. But … that’s for another time. No, now I need to get down to business on today’s topic.

I’ll give you a warning, though: It’s probably going to be a shorter one. Why? Well … because last week’s was titanic, in part. And because Jungle is finally starting to get to the exciting bits (for me, at least) where things start coming together! So I’m a bit excited to get to be working on that.

So, today’s topic is a bit of a weird one … Weird enough that I just wiped 700 words on it out of existence because it didn’t feel on point enough. Today, I want to talk about audience. Well, not just audience, but also the shifting culture that audience brings.

Confused? It’s a bit weird. So let me give you an example from this year’s LTUE.

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