Saturday, July 27, 2013

Can't Tell Readers Nothin'

Hello, internet.

I am taking a break from working on ze book to complain about someone else's book.

I won't name the book, much less the author, but golly, has it ground my gears!

See, the idea behind this book is genius. The world is SO COOL. The characters are so exciting! The plot--well, I don't actually know what the plot is yet, but there's promise!

But the author won't stop telling me things.

A new character enters from the sidelines. He's charming, he's sneaky, he has an interesting repartee with one of the main characters, but there's just something off about him! OMG what could it be? Maybe-


 Oh. Well, look at this other main character! He's strangely moved by a dramatic twist, but he's trying to keep his head! I wonder why-


 Oh...okay. Oooh, look! A new player on the scene! She's upset and appears to be hungover! I wonder why-


 Ah. Well, at least the main villain is a mystery! I wonder what he has to do with-


 Huh. Well, the female MC has an interesting thing going on with the quiet tough guy. Maybe that will play out-


 Okay. Maybe, as the story keeps unfolding, we'll get to find out if they-


Sigh. Thank you, Author.

See, there is a delicious frustration in the unknown. A story loses all of its flavor when you take the mystery out. We, as readers, need to wonder what is going to happen--and what happened to get us to the starting point.

Sometimes--and I am loathe to say this--but sometimes infodump is necessary. Stretching everything out into a sublime twist and turn smoothie takes a long time, and there is only so much time that can be devoted to a single story. But neither can the author cram ALL the things into the blender and then cram the ENTIRE smoothie into the reader's mouth, and then rub the reader's throat until they swallow. That gets old real fast.

Implications are more fun than blunt statements. Implications tease the audience's imagination into active duty. Blunt statements suggest a suspected slowness on the audience's part.

Don't explain the joke. Don't answer the question before it's been properly asked. Don't take the thrill of the chase away from your reader.

And don't waste brilliant worlds and fantastic characters with shoddy writing.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Silly Freud!

So last night (technically, 6AM-Noon today) I had a dream, as sleepers are wont to do.

My dream was very vivid, but also very carefully edited to avoid drawn-out nonsense. Basically, the world was ending super hard, and everyone was going to die. Lawl! Classic!

Fortunately, I stumbled across a slightly shady guy who had a way off the planet, and off to a new colony planet. His ship thing only had room for about fifteen people, so I grabbed my favorite few people and then handed out flyers or whatever for the other spots.

The thing about this trip was: each passenger could take two suitcases. That was all. Two airline-sized suitcases in which to put everything you wanted to convey your life on earth--and also, like survive or whatever.

Well, no, survival wasn't that big of a deal. There were totally going to be snacks on the flight.

But for all that buildup, the crescendo (using the word 'climax' when describing the dream of a 25-year-old single woman just seems in bad taste) of this dream was the filling of the suitcases.

I immediately decided to fill mine with t-shirts and books. The real trial was in picking which ones.

Shakespeare has to come, of course, because his work never, ever gets stale, and the future needs Shakespeare!

Also, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, because, and I cannot stress this enough, I loved that book. I am now comparing all books I read to The Night Circus, and nothing has stacked up yet.

Avi's The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, because that was one of the first novels that I read and recognized as a fictional adventure and looooved. For similar reasons, Treasure Island and The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood also came along.

There were others, of course, but those were the ones I have a definite image of putting in my space-suitcase, surrounded by my favorite cartoon- and pun-related shirts. I also brought my corsets, made by Damsel in this Dress, because they are hella pretty and make me feel powerful and sort of belong to author-me. Pinstripe pants, too, but pants weren't very important in my thinking.

But, yeah. World's ending, everything's going down. Gotta pick my favorite t-shirts and books!!

Way to go, brain.

What would you guys bring?

Language Barrier

Hem and haw, Internet. Hem and haw.

I am currently puzzling over a conundrum of sorts.

In my story, there is a made-up language called Ancient Meridian. I crafted it together like a patchwork quilt, using my rudimentary knowledge of language models. I speak English and French, and have a rough understanding of a few other languages. I do not SPEAK other languages, I have just vaguely studied them enough to sort of get the patterns--also, Latin roots. I dig it. Language is cool.

So, I made one up, based mostly on old Irish and Gaelic, for the Meridian characters in my story. There are a few moments where it actually comes up, including a full song (which is translated in the back) and a few moments that are just me geeking out all over the page, but which will never be caught unless I spell them out.


In Ancient Meridian, 'Grainne' means 'Queen,' which to them is an elected official (not gender oriented) and 'Mael' means 'King,' which is a vaguely religiousy spiritual warrior leader, chosen by a magicky crown relic. (Do you see how into language I am??)

'Grainne' is actually the name of one of my absolute favorite historical figures, and quite possibly my favorite pirate. Her anglicized name is Grace O'Malley. She was a BADASS. She threw-down with Elizabeth I. She gave birth during a ship-to-ship shoot-em-up, which she handled by basically putting up one hand in the universal signal for "Five minutes?", then popping out the kid, then leaping back into battle and trashing her opponents. She organized hordes of Irish warrior dudes into fiercely loyal hordes of pirates. She took what she wanted and lived hard and awesomely and I VERBING LOVE HER SO MUCH. So much that I made her name the Meridian word for 'Queen.'

'Mael' is the name of another historical figure--a Pict warlord who arranged to have a twenty-man to twenty-man combat with a rival. But when Mael showed up to do manly war things, he found that his opponent was all "Ha! Rules are for dorks!" and totally brought way more guys than agreed upon. Mael could have definitely turned tail, but he fought! And got stomped. His opponent was riding off with Mael's head (he got REALLY stomped), when Mael's head swung around, and one of the dead man's rotten teeth pierced the flesh of his cheater-pants foe. The wound got infected. The guy died. Victory beyond death--that's kind of a Meridian King thing. Awwwww yeah.

There's more I could wax on about--not all of the words are taken from historical figures' names, of course, there is actually some language study in there--but the pickle I have found is this:

I'm considering switching the Meridian language to an alphabet mish-mosh thing. The reason for this is because, once people have cracked the code, it would be fun for them to go back and translate some of the things the characters say.

I could just put up a cheat-sheet somewhere on the internet, with direct translations, that as much fun?

I honestly don't know. For now, I'm going to continue on with the language I actually crafted. But we'll see.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Verbing Good Ideas

Verbing verb of a noun...

In an effort to live up to my 'blog once a day' goal, I'm offering you all a snippet of a rant (a snippant? a ranppit?), by me, for me, about me.

Talks with Pestritto on Rye (my -hee!- literary agent) led to a brilliant idea (hers) for an adjustment to ze book. Sans spoilers, the adjustment involves giving a particular character a...y'know...motive. For anything. Whereas before he was just sort of a gentle, pitiful young man who gets kicked around because he's a gentle, pitiful young man who was born into fortune.

Now, he has goals! There is a legit reason why the people he was born to lord over want to yank his birthright out from under him! He is a young man who is prepared to take action--unpopular action that could lead to epic war!--to do what he believes is right.

Woohoo!! Thanks, Pestritto on Rye! I am so excited about this change!!

Except it has caused this character's voice to become moot.

In revamping the introductions for the human characters (another brilliant idea from Pestritto on Rye) I have created a situation where each character gets a chance to show their mettle. In some cases, it is a really crappy mettle. But with the original setup, they all just sort of...appear. The MC (a pond siren) finds the lot of them all just sort of hanging out, waiting for rescue. This was convenient, and offered zero opportunity to really, properly introduce any of these silly lost things.

The new introductions are fantasmic, says I. But the chapter where we meet the young man mentioned above is giving me so. Much. Verbing. TROUBLE. Because now I don't know who he is.

Actually...yeah, I do. Because I've been meditating on this for several days now, trying to properly meet this character who is now actually a person rather than a Living MacGuffin. I've learned a lot about him, and I really, really like him better now. But I still struggle with his voice--partially because I know where he's going and where he's been better than where he is at the start of this particular story.

So. I think I need to assign myself some homework. Movie homework. Literature homework. I want this character's voice to ring true. I just wish I knew why I was struggling so hard to make it happen. And patience is not my virtue.

Know what I'm saying?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Ones Who Die

I've been on a 'Peter Pan' kick lately that for serious has nothing to do with my 'Once Upon a Time' kick. Yeah, I'm super into pirates. Yeah, OUaT's Hook is the hottest thing to happen to piracy since eyeliner became appropriate for men.

But, no, seriously, this is just a natural thing that happened*.

I just finished watching 'Neverland,' one of the super cheesy made-for-TV shows that I absolutely live for. It was about---you know what? No. If you can't guess what it was about, you should probably be reading a different blog.

Anyway, a character dies in Part I of 'Neverland,' and he is super important to the main characters, and he is much beloved, and he is never. Mentioned. Again.

Alright, they mention him once. ONCE. And then never again. Not even in the credits.

Maybe in the credits. I wasn't actually paying attention. That's what wikipedia is for**. My time it better spent watching nerdy TV shows and consuming ill-advised snacks***.

Anyway, this has got me thinking about fictional deaths. We've all experienced that one that hit us all the way through our esophaguses (esophaugi?) and straight through to our shriveled little souls. Maybe it came through the deceptively gentle packaging of Harry Potter. Maybe it hit us straight up through The Hunger Games. Perhaps it slammed us right in the reproductive bits through The Game of Thrones.

Whatever your poison, at a certain age, you have experienced the pangs of fictional death. You probably didn't like it. You may have even written fanfiction where your fictional hero lives to see the end of the day and totally macks on their love interest and, like, unites the entire kingdom into Awesomeville, full stop.

This brings me around to my novel. Most things do, of course, because I am a phenomenally self-centered being and ze book is the core of all that I do, because I have no personal life. The point is: I kill people.

Fictional people. I kill 'em right up. Sometimes quickly, sometimes terribly, sometimes with a vengeance****.  But always memorably.

That's more or less what I'm getting at, here.

People die CONSTANTLY. Wars. Plagues. Famine. Darwinism. It doesn't actually matter how you go. Eventually, we all go. And even the most hermity of hermits (and especially the Kermitiest of Kermits) is remembered. Even if only because your trademark was not allowing anyone to get too close to you--if your ultimate goal in life was to go unnoticed--it'll be noticed when you go the route who's ever died.

If what you leave behind is 'nothing,' then your passing is marked with regret. Grief. Pity. If your passing leaves thousands directionless, vulnerable, and open to invasion, then you leave behind regret. Grief. Pity.

But no one just...vanishes. Even if the only mark you leave on the world is traumatizing some hiker when they find your shriveled demi-mummy, you have left a mark on the world that does not fade. That hiker tells their various offspring of the day they tripped over you when reaching for an abandoned gluten-free Nummy Bar. The story spreads. The legend grows out of the seeds of shock-tainted memory. Your essence spreads out into the ghost of Being. The day-to-day activities that made you the individual who dwelled, alone, in the mountain moss caves, become the facets of fact.

We, as people, have a much greater effect on the world than we can ever anticipate in the dizzy daydreams of our living hours.

Fiction is nothing but reality reflected on a fantastical mirror. So it is with death.

No one just...disappears. You cannot know someone for your entire life and then only be affected by their gruesome murder when the plot says it's important.

If someone matters, acknowledge the effect their absence has. If someone does not matter, acknowledge the fact that none of the jackasses around them notices their absence.

Does this count as a rant? Sorry. Go watch Pirates of the Caribbean, to make you feel better. Don't watch the second two movies, though. The fourth one's okay.

J Larkin out.


**I'm not wikipediaingn. I have a novel to write. No time for fact checks.

***Welcome back, Twinkies! I just ate a reunion Twinkie and I might throw up. Not Hostess' fault, though. This one's on me.

****Do you have Dayjob? I blame every violent fictional event I have ever orchestrated on the customer service industry that pays my rent.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Brief post today!

Yesterday, I mentioned that I am a bit of a fairy tale nerd--by which I mean I know and love basically all of them. I did not mention the other, vaguely implied fact that I also totally lurve modern works inspired by fairy tales--especially mash-ups.

Growing up (and beyond), I always had a vague notion that every fairy tale takes place in the same world. So, duh, the Little Mermaid and Cinderella were neighbors, and Cinderella and Snow White probably had at least one horrible relative-through-marriage in common. The Big Bad Wolf probably had a taste for both pigs AND little girls in red coats. And the evil fairy who curses Sleeping Beauty may very well have lived in a tower with no doors and no stairs, where she kept her forcibly adopted daughter with the impossibly long hair.

Some of the older stories--at the moment I'm thinking of the 12 Dancing Princesses and Kate Crackernuts--even have eerily similar details (forests with silver/gold/emerald branches, leading to a fairy realm), but are very specifically different tales (one involves a young man discovering the source of illness for 12 princesses, the other involves a young girl ((the daughter of an evil stepmother, no less!)) discovering a cure for a sick prince). So, yeah, same world, different adventures. What, you think Venice only ever inspired ONE grand adventure?

But the depth and history of the fairy tale world is not what I'm getting at here.

As I thought about it, I noticed a curious thing: most of the modern mash-ups center on the story of Snow White. If she (or her wicked stepmother  ((originally just her mother!!))) is not the main character, then the main character is her descendant. I've seen this in comic books, tv series, and novels. Snow White isn't my favorite fairy tale--not by a long shot--but it seems to be the most iconic one.

Sure, there's a lot of memorable details--the enchanted mirror, the jealous witch, the merciful huntsman, the seven dwarfs, the poisoned apple! But there are memorable details in all of the fairy tales--that's why they've stuck around for so long. "What big eyes you have!" Glass slippers. The white rabbit. Bread crumbs. "Fee, fie, foe, fum!" A curse broken by a kiss.

I don't even need to tell you what these bits and bobs are from--they scream their own origin. So why is it that Snow White gets all of the attention? Disney could be said to have a hand in it--they made Snow White the star of the first ever full-length animated feature. But that was decades upon decades ago. It's not the most popular of their films, and I wouldn't say it's the most popular fairy tale (I would have to give that to Cinderella, if only because the whole 'rags to riches' thing is so pervasive in our dreams).

So, why Snow White? What do you think, internet?

And what is your favorite fairy tale?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Keeps on Slippin'

Hello, internet!

My, my, how time flies when you're hunched over a keyboard, writing about death.

Haha! Kidding! I was actually rewriting the introduction chapters for the human cast of my novel, Lorelei, Once. So, no deaths. Yet. One guy does get kicked in the face, though.

So much has happened in since I last posted. A stirring of an idea was kicked out of my brain in front of my friend, who offered a single spurt of passionate thought/protest, which in turn unlocked the entire sweeping quest in the Siren Songs series--which Lorelei opens up. I have spent a million billion hours on revisions, to the point where I find myself struggling to keep track of real-world things like food and time. But, progress!!!

Talking of which, remember that little series I started? The Real-Life Characters of J Larkin's Mortal Coil? That wasn't the actual title, of course. That thing doesn't have a proper title. But I wrote about my sisters, and my brothers, and I also planned to write about my Friendpals and my Wives. I still plan on writing about them. But first, I need to ascertain whether or not they want me to be publicly linking to them and whether they'd prefer I use their proper names or the names I have for them in my head. 

Wives don't get that option, of course. They are The Wives, and so they shall remain forevar. Friendpals, however, have their own goals for being publicly consumed, and it strikes me as rude to fling their names and blogs and such around without their permission.

However, full-time dayjobbing and manic-dedication to revisions leaves me with very, very little face-time with Friendpals, and the only time I even think to ask after the issue is...when I sit down to write the blog.

Clearly I need more caffeine and less dayjob. But I also need more money, for rents and stuff, which means more dayjob...urgh, being a grownup sucks. Except when you get to have hot wings and ice cream for dinner. And spend all day switching between Once Upon a Time and writing your own fairy tale.

Can we pause for a moment to discuss how great Once Upon a Time is??? I spend each episode switching between flipping out because the characters are doing, um, anything, and flipping out because OMG I GOT THAT SUBTLE REFERENCE!! I AM THE FAIRY TALE QUEEEEEEN!!!

I like fairy tales. I always have, I always will, I've studied them to the point that it's a bit more than a hobby. For yeeeeears. Before I had any sort of inkling that I wanted to be a professional writer, I was in love with storytelling, and fairy tales are like premium-grade storytelling crack.

So, thank you, creators of Once Upon a Time. You have showered gifts upon the fairy-tale nerd within me...which is my core. My squealing, hand-flapping, fangirling core. If I can ever inspire in an audience the fervor which you mystery folk have inspired in me...I will have earned a plate of hot wings.

Well, that took a turn for the creepy, didn't it? I'm going to go write about death some more.

Alright, not death, quite yet. But there is another face-kick coming up.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Do You Pity Seneca Crane?

Full disclosure: here there be spoilers. Specifically, regarding The Hunger Games--the first novel and the first movie of the series. If you haven't enjoyed either or both of these, may I first suggest that you do, and second ask how you get such an excellent internet connection beneath that rock?


I can't say why, exactly, but I've been rather taken with the film adaptation of 'The Hunger Games,' lately.

When I first saw this film in theatres, I was...disappointed. I was expecting thunderous showers of tears, and it just didn't deliver for me. I felt like they cast it perfectly, but put too little focus on the biggest moments.

Gale is angry at the Capital because they, like, suck. Katniss meets Rue, hangs out with her, and watches her die for, like...five seconds. Peeta threw some bread at Katniss, once, in the rain, I guess. Cinna's nice to Katniss, which is a big deal, because...uh...Oh, and Katniss and Peeta end with nothing but fuzzy happy friend-kiss feelings for each other.

They didn't even disclose the symbolism of the Mockingjay pendant, which they could have done with a throw-away line. For crying out loud. That's a little bit important. I mean, it's the title of the next friggin' book. It's Katniss' identifier. It is the symbol of the resistance that was punished with the existence of the Hunger Games. Oh, and Peeta's leg? The one that's totally fine in the movie but gets injuried off in the book? That's rather important, too. It results in an alliance and a death and an imprisonment.

Rather. Important.

But, as I said, for whatever reason it strikes me harder now. The film, I mean. The novel is soul-scratching perfection.

I've watched the movie a couple of times in the last couple of days, and it gags me all up with feels. Clearly there is something medically wrong with me.

But, at long last, on to the meat of this post:

Do you pity Seneca Crane?

Seneca, as you should well know, is the man responsible for designing and producing the Hunger Games at the time Katniss is reaped into them. He has been doing this for a few years, and is not only good and theatrical about it, but takes pride in what he does. Namely, setting up death traps for children and recording them for the world to see.

He has flair. He has a talent for controlling people, which may be involved with his sweet face-curly-beard-thing. What he's doing is so morally wrong that the kids who have trained their entire lives in order to kill other kids who have no choice in being there still come off as being his victims. In the end, he is outwitted by Katniss (and Peeta, I suppose), and is forced into letting them both live. He loses his life as punishment for failing to...not do that.

It is a testament to the mad skizills of authoress Collins that I feel great sympathy for this jackass.

See, Seneca's original crime is no different from that of any of the Hunger Games tributes: he was born in a stupid, jacked-up world with a despot leader. He, like the 'Career' tributes, has spent his entire life being told that this is the way the world is: what is happening is good, right, and exciting. In the film, we see little kids getting Hunger Games gifts--toy swords and the like, which they gleefully chase one another with, pretending to be like the actual young people they are soon going to watch slaughter one another.

One of the things that irks me the most about the bajillion dystopian novels that rode in on The Hunger Games' coattails was the fact that main characters were horrified by the horrors of their world because...because! It's awful!

The thing is, if that's your world, if that's the way the universe has functioned throughout the entirety of your life (and your parents' lives, and their parents' lives), you don't magically know better. Having modern-day sensibilities mysteriously planted in the minds of people who exist in a different time and place just bugs me right out.

Does that mean a person can't learn? Of course not. Seneca could have--should have--realized that what was going on was maybe not okay enough to make it his profession. But he is so brain washed to the idea, the only problems that he perceives as actual problems have to do with ratings. Seneca believes that he is on the right side in a fight that doesn't really have a wrong side. He doesn't learn fast enough, and it costs him his life.

Obviously, I don't pity him as much as I do, say, Rue. Or any of the other kids who lose their lives because of a war that happened decades before they were born. But I still sorry for Seneca. He's punished before he fully comprehends that he has done anything wrong. That ignorance makes him pitiable.

And pity lingers longer than black-and-white hatred. Much like the entire Hunger Games trilogy.

Well played, Authoress Collins. Well played.