Howdy. This is fellow Denizen William J. Jackson, bringing the dead back to life, I hope. It had bad side effects for Victor Frankenstein, but who knows?
This post comes to you, the punk fiction author and any member from the Scribblers Den on thesteampunkempire.com. In case you haven't heard, the Apocalypse is here. Every story you wrote has come true. The Steampunk Empire has died. Moment of silence, please...
Now, to business. Whilst our brave Imperialists Steve Moore and Lee Yawn have heroically built up the Refugees of the Steampunk Empire on Facebook (three cheers!) to house we who wander amongst the polluted land of the Wasteland without a proper website, I can't help but feel something is missing.
Scribblers Den has a special appeal for me. I received much mentorship from its founder, the one and only Jack Tyler (psst! He started this site too!). We held a regular, near daily communique with one another on the Craft, steampunk, and even made up stories in new worlds Jack put out. Port Reprieve!
by Jack Tyler
Just a quick goodbye... In the weeks since my November 19th post, I have decided not to close this site for the simple reason that much of the material on it does not belong to me, but this post marks the end of my involvement. It was a good idea whose time never came, and I wish you the traditional sailors' farewell: Fair winds and following seas. I'll be seeing you, if at all, in other places. Farewell.
by Jack Tyler
November 1st, 19 days ago, I announced that this forum would be closed for lack of interest today. This announcement was followed by a flurry of protest from people who wanted to see it keep going, people voicing views from "six months isn't long enough to gain traction" to "you need to post more." A complicating factor was ScribD's announcement of their intent to claim ownership of anything posted on the Weebly provider that they felt they could "exploit," (their word) and opinions were voiced that this might be a better fit at an alternate location such as Blogger or Wordpress. "No problem," I replied. "Go ahead and move it."
It's still here.
I'm going to say this one more time. I have an author page that includes a blog. I have a Steampunk Empire page and a writers' group there. I have two Facebook pages, one personal and one as an author. I have a Goodreads author page. I do not need, and do not intend, to take on another one. This will not, as I have stated several times before, become me shouting in an empty auditorium. The last post that someone other than I posted was on July 26th. It gathered three comments, two of them mine. The last visitor browsed the site eight days ago. He or she had nothing to say, and moved on.
Despite this, and in view of all the protests, I am going to stay my hand until New Year's Day, 2017. That is about six weeks off. If someone else does something with this, either here or in a new location, I will be happy to participate, but I will state one more time, in case someone missed it, that This is not going to become me shouting in an empty auditorium! If anyone wants to take the initiative to move it, contribute to it, promote it, or in any other way demonstrate an interest, then I'll be right there with you. If not, this is not going to become me shouting in an empty auditorium!
'Nuff said. Take it or leave it.
by Jack Tyler
Back on May 19th, I set up the Punk Fiction Writers' Guild and invited all my writing friends to join. There was an initial flurry of activity as a group of fellow authors signed up, but then it just petered out. The Weebly blogging service didn't help, as they announced last month that ScribD (whatever that is) has taken them over, or was always their parent company, whatever, and that beginning on October 15th, ScribD would claim the right to "exploit," their word, any content on their servers. Several stories were immediately taken down by their copyright owners, and I don't blame them. I moved from my own well-established Weebly site over to Blogger because when a corporation tells me they're going to lay claim to my work in exchange for the privilege of placing it on their servers, I take them at their word.
The point is that Punk Fiction is dying. As I write this, it has been a month since anyone that I know is not a member has visited, and two since anyone left a comment. I'm disappointed this didn't take off, but Weebly certainly didn't help us with their policy change. Anyway, 19 days from now will mark the six-month anniversary, and if something drastic doesn't change, I will be closing this site down. People weren't very interested before the policy change, and I don't see things improving in its wake. But I could be wrong. If things take off between now and November 19th, it will stay up. Otherwise... Well, you know.
by Jack Tyler
I bought a book by accident. We all have accidents every day, and most of them result in dire consequences. In this case, though, it led me to a new experience I would have otherwise missed, and I thought I should drop by and share it with you.
C.W. Hawes is known to me through Scribblers' Den, a group of writers of the punk genres, especially steampunk. He is known to be a lover of airships, and to have written a dieselpunk (I guess) series set in the 1950s in which WWII never happened, and the world is a very different place. A female reporter based on a real life woman who was known to "get the goods" for William Randolph Hearst is the protagonist of that series, and that's what I thought I was buying. See the value of thorough research, kiddies?
The book downloaded to my new Kindle Fire® (which I love, and will probably do a post on in the future), and I settled back for a nice adventure in journalism. Imagine my surprise when the book turned out to be a whodunit set in 2012. As a reader who favors lots of action, suspense, and thrills, I was a bit peeved at myself for not paying more attention to the blurb, but I figured that I'd paid for it, I might as well read it, right?
And so I did, and I have to tell you in all honesty that I had a bit of difficulty in the early going, difficulty that was brought on entirely by my own erroneous expectations. As a reader who delights in a story where the action never stops, and every problem solved reveals a bigger one, I found the early going to be a slog. There were descriptions of meals prepared, stage business down to the layout of the kitchen, how the assistant prepares the agency's billing, all proceeding at the maddening pace of molasses sliding down a 1% grade. If I hadn't known the author, I can honestly say I wouldn't have kept going, but I do know the author, and taking advantage of that fact, I exchanged several e-mails with him. He explained to me that this was normal for a detective story, as the detective has to gather all the information he or she needs in order to move on the criminal, so the early going is always a lot of talking and thinking. And the cooking? It turns out that, as much as Beyond the Rails is a callback to Firefly, the Justina Wright series is a callback to Nero Wolfe, quite possibly the most admired detective series of the 20th Century.
So, what do we have here? A missing person, whose wealthy parents are eager to find him after he goes on the road to see America, and stops communicating. His last contact was from Minneapolis, where Justina Wright has her practice, and they come to her to investigate. She hates missing person cases, and tries to price herself out of the market, but they are willing to pay for who they perceive is the best. The story loafs along, as I groused about above, until Chapter 11, when there is a sudden left turn, and it explodes into action, intrigue, and an otherwise incredible discovery that Mr. Hawes' writing skill renders credible. There will be no spoilers here. I will just say that after the grindingly slow start, which is normal and expected for mysteries, remember, this book delivered the goods in a way that I couldn't have believed possible, and I finished the last quarter of it in a panting sprint.
The Justina Wright series, comprising four novels at this writing, is the story, obviously, of Justina Wright, a former CIA field agent and private detective who only likes to work the very upscale cases. She is close to six feet tall with red hair, and written as being striking and imposing, which may have contributed to her leaving the Company; spies need to be unobtrusive, right? In any case, she comes across as smart in a cunning sort of way that is of great value to one in her profession. Her older (and smaller) brother, Harry, is the narrator, much as Watson told Sherlock's stories, and Archie Goodwin was our window into Nero Wolfe. He takes care of the business, the cooking, organizing their foot soldiers, and does a good bit of the sleuthing himself. He's a wisecracking devil's advocate to his sister's ideas, and fills his role perfectly. There is a host of colorful supporting characters who I fully expect will return in future stories.
Which brings me to the verdict, and I'm going with four stars on this. What brings it down from a five? Mostly, all the stage business, which is more a matter of my personal preference rather than any fault of the author. I just prefer a book that moves, and when the action stops for a two-paragraph description of a tossed green salad, I tend to lose focus. I won't penalize an author too badly for not writing his book the way I would have, but I can't really give it the full five, either. On the plus side, the three things that stand out about this book are the story, the story, and the story! I can honestly say this is a thriller of a sort that I haven't encountered before, and like the marquis on the classic movie theater downtown used to say, "It's first-run until you've seen it." Style issues notwithstanding, this is a fabulous story that deserves to be read, and I will encourage everyone who enjoys a mystery in any form to take this home and dig in. Just be patient in the early going, follow the trail of bread crumbs, and it will deliver!
C.W. Hawes writes across several genres, and has a good portfolio of works to choose from that will keep a fan occupied for a good long time. You can visit his website at http://www.cwhawes.com/, and believe me, his insightful comments are well worth checking out.
I'm going to wrap this up. Today I will be starting To Rule the Skies by Michael Tierny, so you'll be hearing about that down the road somewhere. Until we meet again, read well and write better!
by Phoebe Darqueling
Greetings! I'm happy to be a part of this new venture and wanted to take this chance to introduce myself. I haven't used Weebly before so I hope I do this right...
Phoebe Darqueling is my pen name for publishing about Steampunk, though I have done a few Kickstarter campaigns for publications and I had to use my legal name, Alison Weaverdyck. In 2014, I created a travel zine called Steam Tour: An American Steampunk in London about the month I spent in the area visiting museums and sites where you can still get a taste of the Victorian era in today's London. If you are interested, it is available for free download here: https://forwhomthegearturns.com/about/my-publications/steam-tour-an-american-steampunk-in-London/
Yesterday, I published my 500th blog post on my Steampunk site, www.forwhomthegearturns.com. I am currently building a list of active Steampunk blogs, so if you'd like to be included on the upcoming page of my site, please leave your URL in the comments and I'll check you out.
I am currently querying a Steampunk/Urban Fantasy mash-up called Riftmaker set in a world on the other side of a portal that used to steal technology from us before the contact was severed circa 1860 in our world and they have never progressed. I wanted to write about the theme of prejudice without co-opting the experience of a POC, so I created a new social order based on the animal a person becomes if they were to pass through a rift and visit our world. The Birds rule the city of Excelsior, and the "mongrels" with unknown pedigree are forced to live off the scraps of the oligarchy. The story centers on Buddy, a "Traveler" who was a dog in our world but must learn how to become a functioning person when he undergoes the change as a result of falling through a rift. When his boy follows him to Excelsior and is taken captive by the secret band of Travelers living in the forest outside the city, he has to enlist the help of his new friends to get him back.
Looking forward to connecting with you all.
Have a whimsical day!
By Jack Tyler
Good evening, friends and followers. Over the past couple of weeks, I have had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with the writing style of one Kara Jorgensen, a charming young lady who happens to be a member of my writers' group. Like all members of that group, Kara is a punk writer, in her case, steampunk, and The Earl of Brass is a tour de force from start to finish. The subtitle is The Ingenious Mechanical Devices (Volume 1), and that pleases me greatly, as I could take a steady diet of Ms. Jorgensen's fiction for a considerable period of time.
So, what am I raving about here? Thought you'd never ask. Let's examine the product, and go easy on the spoilers, while we're at it.
The Earl of Brass is in its essence the tale of two people, Eilian Sorrell, the young heir to a title, and Hadley Fenice, an incredibly gifted tinkerer whose creativity is stifled because she is female. Sounds very straightforward and predictable, but don't be fooled. It's twists and turns and loop-the-loops rival the most thrilling roller coaster.
You see, Eilian isn't interested in politics, hunting, smoking, or any of the things that come with his impending title. He uses his wealth and privilege to travel the Empire, and while returning home from a foray to the far East is the victim of a dirigible crash that costs him his right arm. The medical arts of the period, 1890, barely save him, and his wealth allows him to purchase a prosthetic arm that doesn't do much besides fill his sleeve. It is made by the firm of Fenice Brothers, actually by Hadley's brother George, and delivered by her to the estate. Angry at Eilian for something he had nothing to do with, she expresses her displeasure in no uncertain terms, and they don't hit it off well. She later makes a much more articulated and controllable arm, and they become friends, going on a grand adventure at an archeological dig in the Palestine region, and running afoul of any number of unsavory characters and some other spectacular situations and discoveries that I have no intention of spoiling here. Just read the book.
One thing that is immediately apparent is that this book is very much written by a woman, and that is by no means a criticism. Yes, there is a will-they-or-won't-they romance running like a golden thread throughout the narrative, but the very worst thing you can say about that it that it detracts nothing from a huge, sprawling intercontinental tale. The intrigue, exotic cultures, lost civilizations, and larger-than-life villains are worthy of H. Rider Haggard, and unless you're even more jaded than I am, it will add an extra plot line to the tale that will put you through a wringer of emotions.
Like any author, Ms. Jorgensen's world view leaks onto the page, and she isn't subtle about allowing it its space. She has some comments to make about the situation of women and minorities at the end of the 19th century that speak to us today. When her heroine laments that she can only hope that these oppressive and myopic practices will have been abolished by a hundred years in the future, you can't help but feel her pain that so little has actually changed.
So now I need to give a quantitative rating on a one-to-five scale, which is asking a lot of one guy with an opinion, but it's the current standard, so I'll take a run at it.
Four solid stars. Why not perfect? Well, perfection is rarely attained. This is not a plot that I'm seeing for the first time that is blowing me out of my socks. It is a well-crafted adventure with an engaging romance between social inequals that I promise any reader of adventures or romance will deliver the goods and leave you asking for more. There are a couple of minor issues with tense and I recall one extra word left in, I assume, from a rewrite, and these are, sadly, less than perfect, but they in no way detract from an excellently crafted story that tugs at your heartstrings while taking you for a ride you won't soon forget. So pick up a copy and introduce yourself to Kara Jorgensen. She'll broaden your reading horizons in the most enjoyable ways imaginable.
by Bryce Raffle, blogged from bryceraffle.com
Beyond The Rails, by Jack Tyler
A few years ago, I became a member of the Steampunk Empire, an online community dedicated to steampunk. It was there that I came across a post from a member who called himself Blimprider. A steampunk writer like myself, Blimprider was the alias of Jack Tyler, whose discussion (entitled "Why I Write") intrigued me enough that I later followed him to his own Steampunk Empire group, Scribblers' Den. It also prompted me to add his work to my goodreads list. Why it's taken me so long to finally get to reading his work can only be explained by the fact that I'm a slow reader. I'm hopeful that Jack won't mind me quoting his discussion from the Empire.
I was a child of the 50s, which means that I just caught the tail end of the old Victorian mores and attitudes as they were being swept out to make room for the modern era of snatchin' and grabbin', of "Me first, and eff you!" I miss those times. More to the point, as a lifelong avid reader, I did my formative reading in the genre of adventure books for boys. This was at a time when villains were slimy, ladies had elegance, and the hero had perfect teeth...and since it's fairly obvious that no one else is going to write them, I'm making it my business to do it. And here's the funny thing: Unless a few dozen total strangers who don't know each other are lying through their teeth for no other reason than to boost my ego, everyone who reads these stories, and takes the time to leave a comment or write a review, LOVES them! I am humbled, honored, and blown away by turns. I had no idea that something so obsolete could strike such a chord with so many diverse people.
This nostalgia for those adventure books for boys is evident in Tyler's writing, and it's a joy to read. It has an old-world feeling that recalls Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, HG Wells, and Rudyard Kipling, but which manages to feel fresh and modern at the same time. It has a similar feeling to Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, with its fast pace, its character-driven narrative, its "steampunk light" approach to the genre, and - without the silliness of Carriger's series - its excellent use of witty banter between the characters. Also, like the Parasol Protectorate series, Beyond The Rails often sees the story's heroes traveling from place to place aboard an airship, unraveling mysteries, and kicking ass.
The females are strong, but not masculine, and their personalities are nuanced and believable. The male characters are equally compelling; they have rich backstories, which are introduced to us from multiple viewpoints, which allows the reader to form their own opinions, as well as their own favourite characters. Personally, I'm a big fan of Clinton Monroe, the ship's captain, and Patience Hobbs, her pilot, and I love the banter between them.
You want African steampunk? You've got it!
Jules Verne meets Firefly in this series of tales by a new voice on the steampunk landscape. Join this group of misfits, castoffs, and fugitives as they try to make a living moving cargo in Colonial Africa on their ramshackle blimp, the Kestrel, in the face of everything an untamed land can throw at them.
Beyond The Rails is a collection of short stories that follow the Kestrel crew through a series of rugged adventures set in Kenya. It's a format I'm not used to, and it felt a bit like the literary equivalent of episodic television. The binge-worthy kind. The stories do follow a continuity, with several of them ending with just enough of a cliffhanger to get me reading the next story. It's the perfect format - and the stories are the perfect length - for bus trip reading, although I must admit that each time I opened up the book to read, I was in serious danger of missing my stop. I can be a tough reader to impress; the slightest misstep can take me right out of the moment and spoil my suspension of disbelief. One wrong word, one grammar error, that's all it takes. And yet, Beyond The Rails had me forgetting that I wasn't actually aboard an airship in Colonial Africa.
Tyler's writing style is straight-forward, unpretentious, and effortless to read. It's also clearly researched very thoroughly. It's difficult to imagine that he didn't actually build his own Kestrel and fly it through Nairobi and Mombasa before putting pen to paper. The airship terminology seems to follow nautical jargon, which makes sense, especially given the airship's design; it's basically a riverboat suspended beneath a blimp. The "science" is never over-explained; instead, the reader is simply shown a device in action and allowed to form their own understanding of how it works.
As for the negatives, they were few and far between, but I will admit that the phonetic spelling in some of the character dialogue was at times a distraction.
I also would have liked to have seen more African characters, especially one who was a member of the crew; it takes place in Africa, after all. Of course, the Africans are portrayed sympathetically. Just like the caucasian cast, the Africans are intelligent and nuanced - not all of them are good nor are all of them bad - and those who make ignorant assumptions about them are quickly put in their place (usually by Patience Hobbs). All in all, this was one of the most diverse casts I've had the pleasure of reading, with characters from America, England, Kenya, Prussia, China, Australia, and other equally exotic locales.
This book deserves to be read
It's worth mentioning that Beyond the Rails is self-published. It's a testament to Jack Tyler's skill as a writer that it's as polished as it is. I've read books from major publishers that weren't nearly as polished. In this day and age, where any old idiot with a computer can upload their stories to amazon and hit the publish button, it isn't a mistake to be wary of self-published stories. The best way to weed out those books that don't deserve to see the light of day? Read the reviews. You'll see I'm not the only one who loved reading Beyond The Rails.
I can confidently recommend Beyond The Rails to any steampunk enthusiast, lover of adventure stories, or simply anyone who enjoys a good story. Don't believe me? See for yourself! You can read the first story for free. As for me, I can't wait to grab myself a copy of Beyond the Rails II!
by Bryce Raffle
Bryce Raffle, at your service. I’m a Canadian fiction writer living in beautiful British Columbia. I studied English Literature at the University of Manitoba, where I received a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in History. I also received the Dallas Taylor Memorial Prize for academic excellence in Creative Writing. Then I floundered about with a fancy piece of paper and no idea what to do with it. A few years later, I went on to study Sound Design for Visual Media at the Vancouver Film School, where I had the opportunity to work on a number of films and video game projects.
I now work in the video game industry, mainly focusing on sound design. At Ironclad Games, I worked on Sins of a Dark Age as both sound designer and lead writer.
I’ve always been interested in storytelling. I’ve been exploring writing in a wide range of formats, including novels, short stories, comics & graphic novels. My upcoming first novel, Dead London is a steampunk adventure with elements of gothic horror, contemporary horror, and gaslamp fantasy. I've also contributed a story to the Denizens of Steam anthology, which is available for free on Smashwords.
You can find out more or read my work by visiting me at dead-london.net or follow me on facebook or twitter. Better yet, join my mailing list and be among the first to hear about any new publications.
by Jack Tyler
I have been writing to entertain others for just short of sixty years. I have never achieved any great commercial success, and that hasn't been through any lack of trying, but what I have done constantly and systematically has been to study my Craft in an effort to improve my writing and raise it above the ordinary. Part of my hope, my fantasy some might say, in creating this forum is to provide some encouragement and tangible support for young writers, aspiring writers, to find their own voices and polish their own Craft.
Those who have followed me on this site and others will have noticed that I always type The Craft with capital letters. There is a very specific reason for this. Like building a cabinet, throwing a pot, or painting a masterpiece, the writing of fiction is very much a Craft. We are taught some very bad habits by the public education system, and most of us carry those habits with us for the rest of our lives. Quite possibly the worst of those habits involves the writing of the dreaded Composition. We are handed a topic on which to write something, dash off to perform the minimum amount of research that we can get away with, scrawl a few hundred words we sincerely hope are profound, and turn it in, hoping for the best. I am here to tell you that the best is never achieved in this manner. Most of us never learn any other way to write, and I cannot tell you how many aspiring authors I encounter who believe that they can sit down and with no preparation other than a ghost of an idea turn out a book that will stand beside the works of Asimov, King, and Crichton. You cannot, and until you stop deluding yourself, you will not.
Here is a quote you can attribute to me:
"Writing is hard work, and the writers who succeed are the ones who are willing to do
that work. If it was easy, we'd all be on the best-seller lists."
The first novel that I completed, Temple of Exile, was written with no preparation other than that ghost of an idea (It was a modern fantasy in which contemporary people were pulled into a parallel fantasy universe, and had to try to get back home). It was great fun to write (hey, I finished it!), and upon completion, I sent it off to every literary agent and publishing house whose address I could find, in all likelihood marking myself as a hopeless hack for all the rest of time.
Compare writing a book with a drive from Los Angeles to New York City. The planner studies a map of the US Interstate Highway System, and plans a trip which allows him to see Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, The Gateway Arch, and maybe Mount Rushmore before arriving a week later in the Big Apple ready to get on with his life. The not-planner glues a compass to his dashboard and heads east on the first two-lane road he sees. Having made no plan, he visits every truck stop, strip mall, and tourist trap along the way, and when he arrives in New York a month later (if ever!), exhausted and homesick, he has added to his repertoire the dubious distinction of having visited the World's Tallest Thermometer, the World's Goofiest Plaster Dinosaur Collection, and the World's Biggest Ball of String. That was me, arriving exhausted at the finish with a book twice too long that had more in it that didn't belong in the story than things that did. The greatest thing I got out of it was a valuable lesson, one that I hope to impart over this series:
There are three vital steps to writing a fiction novel: Planning, planning, and planning!
So today, I am going to try to pass along what I have learned about exposition. Exposition is where — Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself (planning, see?). While The Winds of War and War and Peace certainly command well-deserved praise, most of the engaging stories that are read on a day to day basis involve a relatively short time in the lives of the characters, a few days or weeks, rarely more than a month. As the author, you have to know what paths, circumstances, and choices brought your characters to this setting, and indeed, what caused the setting to be the way it is. You will be carrying an extensive backstory in your head (and hopefully in extensive notes!), some of which is of importance to the reader who wants to understand everything about the world and characters you have created for her entertainment.
Some, but not all. Most of the things we experience are tiny, almost insignificant. Does anyone remember which traffic lights you hit on the way to work this morning, and which ones stopped you? Do you remember what condiments you used to flavor your lunch yesterday? Do you even remember what you had for lunch? These are the unimportant things, but if there was a major accident at one of those traffic lights that forced you to take a detour through an unfamiliar neighborhood, or if the ketchup was spoiled, those are memorable, and you could likely relate the whole incident in dramatic and entertaining fashion. Those are the ones that belong in your story, but how do you impart them to the reader without a giant, boring, and book-closing information dump?
Some beginning writers will just dump it all, describing the workings of a small town, and the interrelationships of the main players in a six-page expose at the beginning of Chapter One. This doesn't work for two main reasons. First, throwing out the geography of a strange town, the importance of ten or twelve businesses and families, and the rivalries of half a dozen people the reader knows nothing about is asking her to memorize a lot of details with no connection to any of them. Second, your reader may get to the bottom of the first page, but if she turns to page two, and this is still going on, her response is going to be, "I think there's a good movie coming on."
Some authors begin with a prologue. This usually imparts some pre-story event that caused the story to happen in the first place, and will usually be referred to in the wrap-up as being resolved or not resolved. You usually see this in fantasy works, and fantasy readers are a bit more forgiving, being that they understand they are stepping into a completely alien world, and they have to have a bit of background in order to become fully immersed. Sci-fi and ~punk fiction can borrow this technique to some extent, but if you are writing crime fiction that has people driving ordinary cars around a modern city, use it at your own risk.
So, what's a writer to do? First you, the writer, have to know your backstory backward and forward, inside and out. If you don't, you will, during the complexities of sub-plots, distractions, foreshadowings and the like, make mistakes in continuity, or even leave out important plot details. Do you want your readers to remember you? Not for this, you don't! Plan. Build an extensive world and write it down! I'm not saying this has to be fully realized before you can write Once Upon a Time, but you should have a good working knowledge of all that's going on in your story world, and take notes as you go. If you have your hero drum his fingers on the seam of his trousers as a "tell" that he's about to leap into action, then when it happens again a hundred pages later, you'd better not have him tip it off by popping his gum, or whatever; your readers will remember. Make notes!
My main recognition has come to date in the short-story field, and the way I deal with the world I write in is to plop the reader down in it, and let things happen. The first line of my first story, The Botanist, involves the titular plant doctor getting off the boat in Kenya, and having to take in the strange land, people, and culture as it comes at him; and so does the reader. I have yet to receive a complaint about this method. It follows three rules:
1. Don't Explain Stuff. When Joe Friday of the old Dragnet series pulled out his .38 Special revolver to fire at a fleeing suspect, he didn't first turn to a bystander and explain how the mechanism rotated the cylinder to align with the barrel, and how the primer ignited the powder in the cartridge to propel the bullet toward its target, he just took it out, did what he needed to do with it, and put it away... And so does Captain Kirk when he uses his hand-phaser against his adversary of the week. Punk fiction is going to be rife with gadgetry. Don't explain it. Your readers will see it in action, have that "aha!" moment when they realize what it does, and after a few more uses, they will understand side effects and limitations, and will understand it much better than if you explained it in a big ol' info dump. Just don't.
2. Keep it real. Imagine yourself aboard a US Navy cruiser in the Persian Gulf. You suddenly get a radar contact: Dozens of missiles have been launched from Iran, and they are streaking directly at your ship! The sheer number is going to overwhelm your air defenses, and you are certain to be hit. Disaster is seconds away. Does the captain respond by stopping to hug an attractive female sailor who happens to be on lookout duty? No? Then Captain Kirk shouldn't either, and neither should Sir Cogwheel Buzzgear.
3. Let it happen. A common mistake made by fledgling writers is to believe that the reader can't be trusted to draw the right conclusions, so they spoon-feed those readers explanations of what they're supposed to glean from the passage. Here's the straight dope: Your reader is supposed to have her own reactions to your words and the situation they describe. Set up the situation and let the event play out. If you've done your job as an author, your readers will figure it out. Just remember, you've spent your whole life learning things to get where you are today. Heck, you've probably learned something since you got out of bed. Let your readers have those "Aha!" moments, and they will love you for them.
When I did critiques for writing.com, I always used to tell the beginners that when you write a story, you are weaving a magical spell around your reader, and your reader is a partner in the weaving. He wants you to succeed, but the spell is very fragile. He can be yanked out of it by the smallest distraction, the use of were instead of we're; a character appearing in two places at once; a misplaced comma. His phone still might ring, or his bus reach his stop, but the words on the page are the things that you control. Never knowingly do anything to yank your reader out of the magic, because there's no guarantee he'll ever get back into it. If you want to be that writer that people praise and recommend to friends and coworkers, do the work. Make the plan. Raise your game. Succeed!
And I've rambled on long enough for this session. I guess my usual sign-off would be redundant this time, so I'll just say Have a Great Life, and I hope to see you around the web!
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