Use code “SFREE” to redeem your free copy.
Use code “SFREE” to redeem your free copy.
Creatures make us uneasy because they hold our insecurities and other nasty bits.
Creatures: A Collection of Short Stories will be released for Kindle on July 15th.
This collection is like nothing I’ve written before, very much experimental. I am very happy with the outcome and grateful to the many beta-readers for their feedback.
Get to know a suicidal raccoon, a book goblin, a power-hungry seagull, a woodchuck fed up with the impossibility of life, and a dragon who wages psychological warfare on the human race.
Find out more & Pre-Order here
Recently a conversation sparked up in the Fantasy Writers and Readers group. As with any such group, many people hold strong personal convictions about swearing and the use of bad words when writing fiction. Suffice it to say, as I am a writer who tends to get a little naughty now and again, the conversation inspired me to investigate my own use of such words.
The Suspension of Belief.
For many people, they can believe in literary worlds where bad words don’t exist. Tolkien and other masters of the genre proved that believable worlds without swearing are possible. But these are a certain kind of worlds, innocent in a way, but what if the world you create isn’t innocent? In an age where emphasis is placed on realism and grittiness, words and action need to match certain situations. If you have adult themes, there ought to be adult language or variants thereof (Many people have made up swear words for their world to great effect, some not so much). Our writing isn’t just dialogue, it’s thoughts, and human thoughts are dirty.
TV as a Guide to the Believable.
Consider, for the moment, a series like The Walking Dead. Does it suffer from a lack of profanity? Yes. Because people don’t say “crap” in a zombie apocalypse — they say much worse. Society has crumbled. Morality has been turned upside down. But certain words just don’t exist in The Walking Dead, and the lack of profanity sometimes takes the viewer out of belief when the crap hits the fan. American TV censorship, whether nudity or language, directly affects the believability of its shows. Why do you think so many adults are flocking to HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Starz, etc? Many British shows are quite liberal in their use of profanity and likewise build the strongest, flawed, and most relatable characters in existence (Ever watch Misfits? Being Human?). Dare we wonder what Game of Thrones would be like without the swearing?
Does this Mean We Should be Lacing our Works with Profanity?
In the same vein of thought about how a lack of profanity can take away from a story, excessive profanity can also be detrimental. The key is that the lack of profanity, or excessive presence of profanity, cannot seem forced either way. There are many instances where I’ll remove a bad word during the editing process. Each word, profane or other, has to hold up the words around it.
It’s Really the Character’s Choice, Anyway.
The reason some of my work has profanity and some does not is simple: Each character is unique; has a unique voice, and a unique vocabulary. I happen to write a lot of pessimistic characters. Pessimists, unless language is the focus of their pessimism, often think in crude terms and tend to speak their mind in profane manners. So yes, don’t have a talking gopher cuss out the friendly rabbit in a book for children. Use lesser profane words if you’d like to take it up a notch to the YA arena. If you are at the adult level and you write about a farmer whose family is slaughter by a rich tax collector, and we follow said farmer throughout a trilogy of books before he finally takes his revenge, it just might take away from the story if your character runs the villain through with a sword and says “Take that, you evil man!” But maybe your farmer is just a nice guy with a strong code of conduct, I get it. But then so is everyone else he comes across? You, the writer, are truly a lucky person if you’ve spent a lifetime away from loose-lipped friends and angry conflict. Profanity happens. At some point, it has to.
I understand that many people won’t use profanity because they do not want to alienate their readership. That’s fine. But that is not a choice made toward perfecting your art. It’s a choice made toward business and market. Your story has now been handicapped before it began, and may never recover. Sometimes stories are meant to stay clean. Sometimes not. Just because you are a childrens’ author doesn’t mean you can’t exercise your other self (no one is saying it needs to see the light of day). Because writing is a compulsion, we all know there are drawbacks to suppressing what we’d like to say.
Editor’s Note: I actual changed “crap hits the fan” to “sh*t hits the fan” while editing because I felt “crap” didn’t have the same effect. But then I found out from Will that was the point. Well played.
This blog post was written as part of a Fantasy Writers and Readers discussion. Please contact me for an invite if you are an avid fantasy writer and/or reader and would like to participate in this closed Facebook group.
The pace of the art and the narrative is intimidating at first, but the activity settles down after a few pages (only to spike again later on). The narrators are a butterfly and a rabbit skeleton — so that’s cool. There’s also a talking crow, and as you might imagine, this perked things up a bit for me. It should be noted that there is a fair bit of sex and violence along with elements of horror. The characters are lively and evocative even if the randomness of the story tosses them around like a ship in a violent sea. Feminist themes run throughout the comic though not in an overbearing, militant way. I find the story borrows themes from Westerns about forgiveness and atonement to great effect.
Three and a Half/Five Stars. Characters are well-developed, Art is nice to look at, and reminds me of the art from Jing – King of the Bandits – The Complete Collection. Pretty Deadly‘s story moves fast, maybe too fast, and at times feels a bit directionless.
Pretty Deadly is food for the experienced Comic Book / Graphic Novel reader and not for newbies. Add a half star if you are into heavily into dominant female characters.
Pride of Baghdad is a graphic novel written by Brian K. Vaughan with art done by Niko Henrichon. Published in 2006, it is definitely a work of its time when the USA and America struggled to come to terms with what was happening in Iraq. The illustrations are top notch and Vaughan exhibits a keen, dark sense of animal humor that’s all-too-human.
The story looks at the loss of innocence and reminds the reader that we humans are still part of the animal kingdom. In the post-apocalyptic landscape of bombed out Baghdad we are the walkers, the ones who bring pain and devastation.
As good as the opening pages are (right up to the Giraffe scene), this novel, like the Lions it follows, loses its way. It gets bogged down by a bit too much expository in the middle (I doubt the story needed a sea turtle to emerge from the Tigris River to unload an information dump).
From this point on the author takes shots in the dark at themes concerning freedom, protection, exploitation, and other bits of the human condition. It is after the first third of the novel that Pride of Baghdad loses its status as an instant classic.
The analogies in the novel become thicker and harder to ignore over time. The resulting dialogue explains a bit too much and consequently comes off as little preachy.
Conclusion: Three/Five Stars Subtract or add a star depending on you views of the Iraq war. Regardless, I still recommend it for a quick read that remains relevant today.