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Greetings, Bearers!

School’s back in session for me (both figuratively and literally), so my available time, already stretched thin, has taken a hit. Such is life.  But I’m still plugging away, still working on pieces, and still thinking of you, my wonderful readers!

I’ll be putting out some new stuff shortly.  Watch for it in the next couple of months, and I might even throw a freebie out there!

In the meantime, enjoy football season like I do (when I can), and keep reading!

See you in the Vein!
J. Dean

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Just wanted to gloat.

😀

Okay, that’s enough.  Back to work for me.

See you in the Vein!

J. Dean

Greetings, Bearers,

I have yet another theory to throw into the already seething and stewing pot of various theories surrounding George R.R. Martin’s beloved Game of Thrones series, one which I have yet to have heard.

We know that the Night King (based on the TV show) was created by the Children of the Forest, right?  And, it seems to be that it is through the Night King that the White Walkers have come into existence.

Therefore, I submit this theory: If the Night King is killed, would that essentially end the White Walkers?  What if it was only necessary to kill him and not wipe out the entire army of White Walkers and wights?

Food for thought.  And if I end up being right, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be bragging about it, seeing as how I have not yet seen this idea be presented anywhere else.

So there.

And this is to George R.R. Martin: I know you don’t tend to read fan theories, but if you happen to read this, I hope to be half the writer you are, sir.  You have a God-given talent for this craft, one that stands head and shoulders above everybody else.  You are Tolkien’s heir to fantasy writing.

As for everybody else, see you in the Vein!

J. Dean.

(And now my watch is ended)

Greetings, Bearers!

Just as an addition, I want to make clear that my references in my previous post concerning sacrificing story for the sake of politics doesn’t run just one particular way.  Matter of fact, let me give you a few different examples of this sort of horrid SJW writing that kills stories. Note, by the way, that these are not bound to one particular political or social viewpoint: it’s ALL bad because it becomes about the ideology and not the story.

Alongside Night

Canadian Bacon

An American Carol

Again: write a good story, folks.  It’s ALWAYS about the story.

See you in the Vein!

J. Dean

Greetings, Bearers!

Before getting to the heart of my post, I wanted to let you know that Bastards’ Road, my short story set in the Game of Thrones universe, has been posted to fanfiction.net.  Click here to check it out and please support this cool site!

Okay, on to my post. While this is not something I haven’t talked about before, I’m going to make a fairly strong statement about it now, and make it clearer than ever.  If you are a writer, and you want to write a great story, do yourself and all of us a big favor: write a good story.  What I mean by that is that the purpose of the story is the story.  It’s meant to entertain, to take your audience on a rollercoaster ride on a track of plot, character development, action, and emotional contact. After their eyes finish skimming the last word on the last page, the people who read your work should be setting it down with the satisfaction of having read something that they loved, much like a person who sits and eats a perfectly portioned, perfectly flavored meal. They should have loved the story, should have loved each high and low that you took them on, and they should have eagerly anticipated the climax while being reluctant to get there because they’re enjoying the ride so much.

In a nutshell, it’s about a good story, period. It’s ALWAYS about a good story.

But when you sacrifice telling a good story for the sake of exalting your worldview or your politics, or because you want the story to be more about your ideology than the composition and construction of characters that are colorful and fully developed, you’re killing the story.  And you shouldn’t be surprised when somebody doesn’t like that.

The joy of the story comes in the putting together of something that weaves creativity with a point of contact that reaches as many people as possible.  Take, for example, the Beatles song “I am the Walrus” written by John Lennon. Lennon basically wrote the song because he learned that a teacher in his old school was having students analyze the lyrics to Beatles songs, which inspired him to put together the nonsensical and gibberish-laden piece now immortalized as one of the more popular tunes on the Magical Mystery Tour album.

By his own admission, Lennon was just having fun with it. The song isn’t about anything. Yet when combined with the musical orchestration and other little “surprises” in the song supplied by the Beatles and George Martin, the song is now one of the Beatles’ most popular.  Why? Because it’s a well-crafted song, not because the lyrics have any “deep, hidden” meaning to them (Sadly, even though Lennon himself indicated that the song is ultimately about nothing, there are still “intellectual” people who refuse to take his word for it and insist that there is more to the song, thus ruining it via literary deconstruction).

Now, Lennon–who in his later years was certainly more politically volatile and outspoken–could have simply written something more straightforward about the whole matter in a more activistic manner and put together lyrics that would have been a bit more poignant (for a more extreme example, see Guns ‘n Roses’ “Get in the Ring”). But Lennon didn’t.  He made it about the song and the enjoyment of artistically crafting a well-composed piece. And while he “addressed” the matter of lyrical analysis. He did it in a way that still made it about simply sitting down to listen to good music first. Lennon did not sacrifice good music for the sake of an issue; he wrote good music and in the process dealt with the issue in his own, humorous way.

In another manner, the same thing could be said about J.R.R. Tolkien and his epic “Lord of the Rings” series. Tolkien despised allegory, preferring “applicability” instead. Tolkien’s characters, plots, and themes might have had applications which could have been used (my particular favorite being that of the One Ring and its application to the lust for power), but the story of Frodo’s trek from the Shire to Mount Doom is just that: a story. Tolkien essentially wanted to take people on an adventure, not primarily to make a point about war or politics or society. If there was any influence from Tolkien’s political or religious beliefs (he was, after all, a devout Catholic), it was more or less incidental to the point. The point was the story, not the commentary on societal issues that might or might not be gleaned from its elements.

What this comes to is the modern idea that everything has to be seen through a political worldview. This has come to light especially in the last few years, in light of the fiasco that was “Gamergate” and the release of the horrendous Ghostbusters reboot which generated controversy, and now arising again with concerns about the female Doctor being introduced in the upcoming Doctor Who series and the characterizations put into play in the new Star Wars films (I’ll include links on these below, in case you’re not familiar with what’s going on in each of these).

Now here’s the crux of the matter: hold whatever political or societal viewpoint you wish: it’s a free country (and I hope a free place where you live if you’re outside of the U.S.).  But when you turn your story into nothing more than a propaganda piece for your politics or worldview, or when you’re so attached to your worldview and politics that you think your story will suffer unless you stuff your worldview in there in such a way as to emblazon it across every key facet of your plot and character development, you will almost always inevitably kill your story and lose your audience.

As I’ve already run much longer with this post than I had intended, I’ll cut it short and leave the video links below to explain more.  But the point is that you as an author must RESPECT THE STORY FIRST. You must make your story good, make your characters good (not necessarily morally, but appealing), make your fictional world good, and all will work out.  But if you refuse to do this, if you refuse to alter your story in a good way because it may impede on your politics or activism, if you create a story, a movie, or a video game dominated by the fear of the “politically correct,” or if you refuse to respect the source material if you’re captitalizing on an already established scifi or fantasy world, then you’ll get what you deserve, and that’s negative press for turning your opportunity for creativity into a political sermon.

So there.

Whew! I hadn’t planned on writing that much, nor did I intend to make it quite so negative at the end.  Be that as it may, sometimes you have to be negative in order to bring about a positive result, right? 😀

Okay, back to work.  In the meantime, check out these links below my sigline for futher thoughts. They illustrate the problems you get into when you make your agenda more important than your craft.

See you in the Vein!

J. Dean

Greetings, Bearers!

Just coming up for air in between writing projects (I’ve been going pretty gung ho with it, which is in part why I have not put any new posts up lately) and wishing a happy Independence day today to everybody (belated by three days for my Canadian friends).

Okay, back to work, not just writing, but cleaning up for a party.  Enjoy, folks!

See you in the Vein!

J. Dean

Greetings, Bearers!

I hope that all of you had a fantastic Memorial Day that not only included fun activities, but also the remembrance of those who fought and died for the United States (if you’re reading this and not a U.S. citizen, hopefully you have a similar day on your calendar). I never served in the military (came close and missed it by four inches, but that’s another story I’ll have to share with you sometime), but those who did earn my respect. They do a  great service, and many of them are shining examples of what it means to be a model citizen.

Okay, on to my topic. I’ve been getting the itch lately to write a little bit about my viewpoints on writing, and while I don’t reach the level of the greats in prominence and sales (and probably eloquence too), I have learned several things about the craft, and want to share those with you, particularly if you aspire to write.

One of the most important things that a writer can do for his/her readers is the “world immersion,” i.e., the explanation of things in the book that facilitate an understanding of the workings that undergird the setting or plot of a given story. This immersion is approached by different authors in different ways, some of which I’m not too crazy about. One of my least favorites is the “infodump” method, in which the writer simply sets out to drop an entire chapter’s worth of data upon the reader in a manner similar to a dry academic essay. Guilty parties include Michael Crichton in his book Prey  and George Orwell’s 1984 (Remember the excerpt from the political manifesto that Winston reads aloud for several pages?). This sort of “drop-it-in-the-reader’s-lap-all-at-once” method can ruin the atmosphere of otherwise-enjoyable books like the two I just mentioned, and it can discourage the reader in that the mood of a great drama is broken by the interruption of a scholarly lecture.

Another immersion that I’m not fond of is an assumed immersion, in which the author makes a little bit too much of an assumption about the audience. As much as I appreciate Tom Clancy and his works, he tended to do this in some of his books, often talking in military jargon in a manner that somebody like me who has no military background becomes confused and has a difficult time envisioning what it is he’s trying to convey. Assumed immersion is fine when you know your audience is familiar with your setting and subject, but it’s murder on the outsider.

Personally, I prefer world immersion through one of two methods, between which I like to walk a bit of a tightrope. The first is through simply showing that world off in a guided tour, so to speak. I like to take the reader through the world with the protagonist (or perhaps another character) and expose the reader, little by little, to the things that (s)he may need to remember for later, or may need then and there in order to make sense of what’s going on.  The reader sees the events and world along with the character, all the while I word the things and ideas in such a way as to make them relateable.

My second chosen method is that of exposition through dialogue. This is especially useful in the Vein series, as the reader is traveling along with the Seven Bearers into an alien world which fits few, if any, of their preconceptions and cultures. Here, information is gathered through talking with others in the Vein, mostly through the knowledgable members of the Sect. The conversations are complete enough to give the reader a good sense of what’s going on, yet at the same time an effort is made to avoid a mere infodump by spacing out the places where information is needed and given.

The reasons why I do these are two. First, as with many things in a good story, I like to see a gradual unraveling or revealing of what’s coming up. I personally don’t like stories where everything is thrown at the reader in the first few chapters, and that lack of surprise is something I don’t want my readers to endure. Second, in doing this I can pace the information. I can sprinkle bits and pieces of necessary exposition without running the risk of stopping the action or killing the mood. All that information, as good as it is, defeats the purpose of the story if it interferes with the drama.

So that’s my little tidbit for writing today. I hope you’ve found it to be beneficial.  Perhaps I’ll put up an excerpt as an example of this so as to give you a sense of how I do it.

But in the meantime, it’s onward and upward as more writing must be accomplished. Forward ho!

See you in the Vein!

J. Dean

Greetings, Bearers!

In case you’re wondering what I’m talking about, go HERE.

That’s all 😀

See you in the Vein!

J. Dean

Greetings, Bearers!

No, I doubt that Stephen King will see this, because… well, the guy probably doesn’t know that I exist.  But that’s okay, because the trailer for the beginning of his Magnum Opus has finally been released after far too long, and it looks phenomenal!

The Dark Tower Trailer

Got a little bit of a wait for it, but I’m very pumped about this one!

Okay, let me continue with my own feeble attempts at writing now…

See you in the Vein, or maybe in MidWorld!

J. Dean

Greetings, Bearers!

So, here I am, taking a little break from my novel and short story work. And it couldn’t have come at a more convenient time, because I’m discussing a problem I’ve just recently run into with my own labors.

So I came up with what I thought was a good idea for a short story, and I started writing it. And as I wrote it, I kept altering it in little details here and there.  After all, in a sense the things we write have a tendency to take on a life of their own, figuratively speaking, and don’t always end up the way we planned.  And boy did it go off in a different direction.  What I had originally intended to be a five or six page short story is now morphing into a twenty-plus page piece, and I’ve run into a place where I’m not so sure I want to go in the original direction for the story’s ending, as it reads a little too much like another story I’ve written (more on that later).

Anyway, I’ve done something that I hoped I would avoid, something I’ve done before, and I’m sure you have done before as well if you’ve ever done any writing:

I’ve written myself into a corner.

I wouldn’t exactly call it “writer’s block” per se. It’s not like I can’t think of anything to write. But I would say that what I want to write is making me balk a bit at actually writing it, because what I don’t want is a reader reading it and saying “Oh, J. Dean already did this.” I mean–yes, things are going to be somewhat the same, as there is nothing new under the sun. But it’s like listening to a music artist whose songs, though good, tend to sound a little too much like one another. And while I don’t necessarily want to go off the deep end from myself stylistically (and if I did it would make the story even worse), I also don’t want to end up being too predictable.

So my hope is that, in writing about writing one’s story into a corner, I can help myself as well as all of you should you find yourself in this situation.

There are a few options you can use to get out of writing yourself into a corner. I’ve used all of these before, and I haven’t decided which one will work for my current situation, so this will give me a fresh perspective on how to get out of this corner, and it will hopefully help all of you, my lovely readers.

The Nuclear Option: This is a last resort, of course. Robert Heinlein had five rules for writing, and his second rule what that “You must finish what you write.” I agree in general, but I also understand the frustration which comes when you have tried over and over, but simply do not like what your product is or is becoming. Scrapping the whole thing should be done only after other options have been weighed out, but at the same time, it is an option, one that I’ve personally used. So use it if needed, but use it only when you’ve tried every other avenue. Stephen King once said that notebooks for ideas are where bad stories go to live forever, and I would venture to say the same thing about stories that have been salvaged with every good intent yet still fail to sustain either the writer or the reader.

Fresh Eyes: Yeah, I get it: we don’t like letting other people read our unfinished work. You and me both. But at the same time, letting somebody who’s unfamiliar with your story take a look at it and offer suggestions can be of great benefit.  Sometimes we’re a little too “comfortable” with our styles and our stories, and we’re beholden to our biases and our mindsets in a way that blinds us to other options. Giving somebody else a chance to look over what we’ve done so far while asking for suggestions, though embarrassing for some of us, is a good way to take the blinders off and see more potential pictures.

The Road Less Traveled: If you can, back up and find the spot where you led yourself into the corner. Sometimes the fix is as easy as having your protagonist turn left when he or she should have turned right. Yes, it might involve a little bit of editing or outright rewriting, but it’s an ounce of prevention, let it keep that pound of cure at bay.

Write something, write anything: Sometimes, when I’m in that corner, I’ll just start writing, even if the idea isn’t fully developed. I’ll take the protagonist, the antagonist, or even the setting in a direction that’s both unexpected and unorthodox. Even if I end up not liking what I’ve written, I’ve at least given myself something to say “Hey, this isn’t good. ‘X’ or ‘Y’ would be better,” and then I’ll proceed with “X” or “Y”.  Once in a while it takes conceiving a bad idea to birth a good one.

Plan your trip: Now this one varies from writer to writer. I know of writers who don’t like to plan anything at all regarding characters or plot, and they insist their stories turn out just fine. I admire them for that, but to be honest that rarely works for me. I frankly have to plan ahead for the most part. In fact, it was not planning ahead that got me into this little fiasco in the first place. Yes, allow for wiggle room and potential deviancy in your plot and characters, but at the same time it’s best that you have at least a rough idea of where you’re going and how you’re getting there. One can plan generalities without sacrificing spontaneous specifics.

Okay, I’m going to hold there for now. Perhaps I’ll add a “Part 2” to this list later on, but for now think on what I’ve said here.  And hey, email me your own ideas! I’ll be happy to add them!

Alright, dinner calls. Cold pasta does not taste good, just so you know.

See you in the Vein!
J. Dean