Tag Archives: ending

Writing: Tumblr Mythbusting

So, despite the fact it isn’t linked to my WordPress website (for good reason), I do have a tumblr that I use, mostly to follow some fanfic writers. Some are pretty honest about themselves. They write fanfic to relax, or to take a break from their original fiction. It’s the latter ones that can sometimes post some pretty protentious crap, most of it things that I know are wrong.

First things first: what works for someone else may not work for you in terms of the writing process. There are outliners, there are pantsers, there are a combo (me!). I recommend everyone keep notes, even if you are a pantser, so you can keep track of what you’ve done and have something to look at. But here is why some of the most common advice that I see floating around are such really bad ideas, I (almost) have no words. I kept myself at five, or else I would be here all night. If you want my opinion on others though, feel free to shoot me an e-mail or make a comment and I might do a sequel post if I get four more (Ginny already suggested one).

Don’t use descriptions such as “the short one” or “the blonde” in place of pronouns or names, it’s demeaning/lazy/childish/etc.

Okay, no. There’s this thing in writing called tags, which are physical traits of the character that, when you put all the tags together, help you put a mental picture of the character’s appearance together and make them more than, as Deborah Chester puts it, “talking heads.” So using those are important ways to sneak tags in, because the reader eventually sort of skims over things, but their subconscious acknowledges this tag and knows who is speaking without using a pronoun or a name. And more importantly? Sometimes you have two characters that identify as the same gender in a scene. Using their names back and forth is just annoying, so you need other ways of referring to them, and using pronouns can get really confusing depending on paragraph and sentence structure.

Don’t use *insert type of language here, from made up names for artificial hair colors to she/he/they variations*, it’s not how grammar works!

I have an English degree. You know what I spent four years learning? Language evolves, and changes. Especially in story telling mediums, and double especially with the English language because ours is the language that bastardizes every language it encounters. Most languages don’t have words for someone with pink hair, so writers make it up, using words like pinkette, rosette, etc. Riders of horses know some of the strange noises/actions horses make that can’t be classified in usual language, so they make up a word to describe it. And let’s not go into how gender-specific pronouns is having to rapidly change to keep up with our new comfort in having people’s gender identity confirmed. Get off your damn high horse.

Don’t reread your stuff as you’re writing it, it will just stall you out as you spend all your time editing the same five pages!

To a certain degree, I agree. You gotta let the red pen go as your writing. But I also stand by that sometimes you need to walk away from your book. See how long it’s taken me to do Ten? That’s because at the halfway point I reread, realized my plot was getting sidetracked, and had to do some serious gutting to get back on track for the second half. If you reread every, oh, five or so chapters, it will help you see if you need to re-outline, or if you need to redo what you’ve done because the stupid thing has gone down a weird-ass road that is just all sorts of wrong. Also, you may find that a character revealed something important, and you need to make sure to make a note of it so it’s important. (Forgot Violet was afraid of horses, thank God I caught it this last time…)

Get stuck? Kill a character, it causes emotional impact and is a great way to raise the stakes!

Do you want to know why it takes so long for G.R.R. Martin to get the next Song of Ice and Fire book out? Because the dumbass (no offense, dude, this is just how much I hate this habit of yours) keeps killing off characters, gets 2/3rd of the way through the next book, writes himself into corners that only those now-dead characters could get him out of, and he has to scrap it and start over. I would die, just die, if I kept having this easily preventable problem. You want to kill off characters, fine. But if you are going to cause that kind of drama, you cannot do it just for shock value. We have to love this character, they have to mean something to us. And then when they die, there has to be a reason for it. Now, I don’t mean the person killing them has to have a good reason. I mean this needs to do something, set a fire under her pants, give him a reason to step up to the plate, give a necessary clue, something.

Have an ending in mind and stick to it, no matter what!

I agree with having an ending in mind, in the sense of your character needs to have a goal. But that goal can change depending on circumstances, on how your characters reacts to the types of pressures you put on them. If your antagonists have a plan, it may change depending on what your protagonists do. Be open to your ending needing to change as the story develops. Your main couple may not get the happily ever after if it turns out your heroine has more chemistry with this other guy. The antagonist might not get caught, just found out, which is great sequel bait. Just be open because characters and thus their stories have ways of taking on lives of their own.

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Writing: Cliffhanger vs Hook and Responsibility

I had vague plans of talking about something else this week. And then Ginny went poking around and discovered that Sly Cooper 5 wasn’t even being worked on and…nerd rage happened, and this post suddenly became a whole lot more necessary for my sanity.

Most readers, movie and anime watchers, and video gamers know what the universal consensus of a cliffhanger is. It’s where there is a completely unresolved ending to a chapter/episode/game, usually a very obvious sequel plug. Readers/watchers/players hate them, because they are driven to move on to the next whatever it may be, even if they may not have the time to put down the book/watch another episode/play another hour. Fanfiction readers in particular hate them because, unless the fic is completed, you may be waiting months for the next chapter. And everyone hates them at the ending, because then you have to cross your fingers and pray the developers/writer get to do the sequel or else you have unresolved questions.

But there is actually a tool that writers use called a hook that is commonly misconstrued as being a cliffhanger. The difference is where exactly the two are placed. If it’s at the end of a chapter or an episode that is not the last one, it is actually a hook, meant to keep you reading or watching. This is an important tool, actually, because writers are dependent on getting you through the entire book/movie/TV series without growing bored. If you get bored, you won’t have anything better than “eh” feelings about it, and then you may not read/watch another. Game developers have less of this problem because most gamers are A-personalities who will want to get all of it anyway unless it’s a really bad game, but it’s still a factor.

Hooks are necessary. If you don’t have a hook after almost every chapter/episode, you aren’t going to keep your reader/watcher interested, and you are sunk. But cliffhangers, which are the unresolved endings, are another story. I had a professor who said she always ended her books with an unresolved question, which made me just cringe. It was sequel bait, she admitted to it being sequel bait, but unless I had the contract for the next book, I would not be doing it. It isn’t fair to those who love the book if you never think up enough ideas for a sequel or can’t get it to sell. There’s also the factor that at minimum, a new book in a series will come out once a year, sometimes more, especially if you weren’t contracted for it to begin with. That’s a hard wait on fans.

I’m not saying cliffhangers don’t have their places or uses. If you have the contract and you know the book will be out in a year, I say go for it. It will jack up your sales as fans are desperate to know what happened. This worked for Garth Nix and John Flanagan, who got me to rather hurriedly buy the next books in The Seventh Tower and Ranger’s Apprentice series (respectively) as soon as they came out. It makes churning up publicity for the next book bigger, which means more sales. Sadly, publishing houses have gotten savvy and actually check to see how your last book sold before they will buy your next book or decide how big of an advance to give you. The first month or so will be your biggest sales on a new release, and then they will go down fast, meaning you need to sell as many as possible that first month for the sake of future books. Also, you don’t make royalties until you pay back that advance (which, given the percentage you get of sales, can take a while).

This is a double-edged sword. It won’t take long for word to get out that the book/movie ends on a cliffhanger in this day and age (unless you are like me, I tend to pick up books and forget to fact check). However, if I do fact check and know there’s a cliffhanger, I will wait until the next book or until the series is finished before I will touch it, since I don’t want to waste my emotional investment in something that might not see completion. (Which is why I have not read or watched Game of Thrones, btw.) So you cut some of your sales off at the knee until the next book comes out and resolves the cliffhanger, when you’ll probably see a higher spike in sales of both books. It’s a long-term game rather than a short-term, which some publishers can’t see.

Now, why am I nerd-raging over the Sly Cooper games? Because they have become the perfect example of how not to do a cliffhanger ending. When Sucker Punch finished the first three, they were fairly resolved and self-contained. While there were openings that could be fun to play with, fans could also be fairly content with where it had left off, so if nothing else ever happened, we’d be okay. Then Sony and Sanzaru Games got a hold of the property. It took eight years (I think) for Sly Cooper 4: Thieves in Time to come out. And it seemed to be worth the wait. Cut scenes were now animated, there was a lot more depth to the 3-D renderings. Story-wise, it was sort of lacking and when it came to game play, a lot of old moves/gadgets had gotten left behind, but it was a good first start for a series.

(Okay, I was disappointed that all the ancestors were basically skins for Sly, and had all the same moves with a specialty one or two. Because chronologically, some of the characters shouldn’t have had access to moves that had been invented by other ancestors yet! Okay, and they can’t decide which eye Henrietta “One-Eye” Cooper lost. That’s annoying.)

The problem was, there was a “secret” ending that showed that Sly had gotten lost in Ancient Egypt when the time machine exploded. Which is where the original enemy of the series, Clockwerk, and the Cooper line’s rivalry started, and the Cooper line started period. One of the villains, Penelope, had escaped from prison in the epilogue. And even if you hadn’t unlocked the secret ending, Sly was lost in time and space! It’s a giant, giant sequel hook…and they aren’t going to do a thing with it, supposedly at this time, which means it might be another eight years and another developer switch before we see it. If we see it, since they are set on rehashing the first games in movies now (with awful character designs, don’t get me started).

If you use cliffhangers, please understand the responsibility that you are getting into with your readers/watchers/players. You are leaving them with huge unresolved questions and feelings. It can help your sales considerably…until you fail to follow through. And then it ruins your credibility with them, and you will never get that back. They will start waiting until something is completely finished before investing their time and energy, which means while you’ll see huge spikes at the end of a project, you’re early sales will be bad and this will make your publisher/developer be leery of giving you green lights on new projects in the future. So be careful with your evilness. It could be your career’s downfall.


Review: The Dresden Files 11 – Turn Coat

Well, thank God I made a buffer. I had the flu the first week, and then last week I was busy making up for the fact I got the flu. *eyeroll* I got the part of Abbess Guinevere, btw. I’m excited. 😀 On a sadder note, we’ve caught up to my once-a-week schedule, and with fair starting and me being crazy busy for at least a couple of months, I’m going to go back down to once a week blog posts until the new year. I’m very, very hopeful that after the holidays if not sooner, I can start guaranteeing twice-a-week posts permanently, but I need time to finish getting stuff around here beaten into shape.

Turn Coat brings back an old friend…sorta. More like enemy, but when someone is begging to be hidden, it’s really hard to quibble over the details. While Morgan has been around, now he’s turning to Harry for help. Ironic, no? But things are never as easy as they appear. Morgan is being accused of killing one of the Senior Council members. To make matters worse, trouble is brewing in the direction of the White Court, and something truly horrendous has been summoned straight out of Native American folklore (errr, I’ll get to this). Add to the fact that Harry can’t seem to leave any of his house guests alone for longer than a few minutes, not counting Mouse who tries to keep things calm, and well, is it all that surprising that everything goes straight to Hell?

So, what went right in this book? To begin with, the naaglosshii was actually scary. It was honestly a villain I dreaded seeing, and not just because Butcher did something sexist and fed into rape culture. It was terrifying before he made it intelligent, that was really just the icing on the cake. I can say the same really about Demon Reach. Maybe that’s just because both sort of tagged on nightmares I had as a kid that have stuck with me as an adult. Either way, job really well done on this book with the horror/monster characterizations and descriptions. Even some of the previously flat characters who we are supposed to just completely hate got some fleshing out that didn’t necessarily make me hate them less, but it made them more real so I could enjoy hating them more. (Such a weird thing to type.)

I also have to give him some props. I didn’t peg the traitor as the traitor, I didn’t see Morgan’s confession at the end coming, and while I think the explanation of Anastasia makes complete sense and I saw bits and pieces of that stacking up in hindsight, it was also a welcome little shock-not-shock as well. (Translation: Becca wasn’t extremely surprised by the Stacia part, but didn’t at least completely see it coming.) Butcher is finally getting a handle on the mystery part of the series, so while we get bits and pieces of the whole thing, we aren’t so completely behind Dresden that we are annoyed and we aren’t so far ahead of him that we get impatient.

And believe it or not dear readers, I am not going to give him crap about what happened with Anastasia. Because this time, it was written in a way that I actually felt like was closer to trying to push a friendship into a relationship at the advice of somebody else…and then realizing that that somebody else was an idiot and trying to return back to the friendship. That advice was probably really, really strong, but there was a certain level of choice to it that I felt was missing in the earlier book between Murphy and Lord Raith (and really, more than a couple members of the White Court). I doubt she got pushed to sleep with Harry, for instance. And in some ways, she was still very much herself in some of it. So congrats, Jim. I am not going to rip into you over this.

But speaking of the White Court… THOMAS! My baby! I can’t talk about it, it’s too spoilery. But… THOMAS!

When it comes to the world building and monsters part of it though… I gotta admit, I’ve got some issues with the way that Butcher is portraying the Natives and their legends. I’ve taken some Native studies-themed courses, and while I am far from an expert, I’ve gotten to where I can tell when someone is relying too heavily on stereotypes in movies. And Butcher is walking that line far too much. I would honestly be surprised if one of my old professors reads the Dresden Files because of Injun Joe and the way he and his culture have been showcased in the book. Maybe I am wrong and Butcher consulted with some Native writers before he added that element, and if so and he actually listened to them, I withdraw my complaints. But as it stands now…I repeat, I doubt it. I really, really doubt it.

There were some really weird character inconsistencies with Molly in this book. I don’t understand why she went mind probing, not after all the trouble we went through in the last book establishing that she finally learned the boundaries. I mean, I understand that some serious time has passed since then. But it still seemed really out of left field for her to go down that road. Was it setup for later in the series? If so, it’s contradictory to the previous way she’s been shown, so why bother trying to redeem her in the earlier books? Was it to help soften up Morgan there at the end? No, because now we’ve given this idea to her that it’s okay to break the rules as long as you aren’t caught. Which again, is so radically contradictory to everything we’ve spent a couple of books establishing now, that I got a little frustrated.

The ending did not help matters. Not at all. I mean, don’t get me wrong. He wraps up all his necessary threads, has the series ones still going, a few small steps taken in resolving them… But there is no high note. And while in a mid-series book, you can have mostly downward spirals on your characters’ lives, in my opinion, any ending is just completely unsatisfying if there isn’t a high note of happiness somewhere. But all I saw at every turn in this one was more sadness, more future trouble being hinted at, more relationships coming to an end, more threats looming over the horizon. As a result, the book didn’t really feel finished to me.

Rather than press on to Changes, however, I’m going to take a slight break and review an anime I mentioned in an earlier review. I think I need to refresh my brain a little, since I need to be looking at the books as both a series and as a whole, and I’ve been forewarned that that starts to get tricky from here on out. So see you next Thursday!