Category Archives: Tips for Writers

Dystopian Fiction

This discussion is reprinted with the author, Roderick Vincent's permission. It was first published in Writer's Digest. I would like to thank Mr. Vincent. Also, thanks go to Julia Drake of Julia Drake, PR who worked with me to obtain Mr. Vincent's okay.

In most cases, the dystopian genre explores a fictional future, tapping into present fears about the path society currently travels.   The art is in imagery of the not yet invented but easily imagined. It’s not a surprise the dystopian genre is often lumped together with science fiction (check out Amazon’s browse categories) whermaxresdefaulte technology plays a crucial role. Robotics, nanotechnology, advanced artificial intelligence, cloning, and all other derivatives of advanced, imaginable technology are often used as colors on the canvass painted into a reader’s mind. In George Orwell’s 1984, the all-seeing Big Brother uses the telescreen. In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, reproductive factories of the future are used to produce a limited number of citizens preordained to a caste-world void of pain.

  1. As you’re writing dystopian fiction, think about how to take current technologies and extrapolate. When you have a vision of what that might look like, ask yourself how it changes the society that does not yet exist.

Other dystopian novels avoid the technological aspect, but drive one forward with a central theme (book burning with Fahrenheit 451, ultraviolence with A Clockwork Orange, and the cycle of revolution to despotism in Animal Farm).

  1. Discover what the central theme is and then explore it with indefatigable passion.

Better dystopian novels have two things in common:

  1. The narrative pushes internal events to an extreme. Drive the plot forward so that at the climax, there is a big sense of doom. How are the characters taking us there? In dystopian, a lot of times resolution of the central conflict comes in death (The Road, 1984), but before that a force exists inside the story driving the reader towards the second crucial element:
  2. The inherent message within closely associated with a burning fire inside the author’s stomach. In Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, corporate domination led by biotech companies pushing the envelope of manufactured microorganisms (the theme) causes the inevitable collapse of mankind. The message: man is too smart for his own good; unfettered technological advancement without ethical consideration will have disastrous consequences. In The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, reality TV is pushed to a violent extreme (the theme). The message: gladiator games appealing to the masses distract from the true nature of the world within the thirteen districts. The Surveillance State in George Orwell’s 1984 is all pervasive (the theme). History is rewritten to suite Big Brother’s needs, and the nation is in a perpetual state of war (any of that sound familiar). The whole book is one big message warning us about the nature of totalitarianism.

Why do readers latch on to such pessimistic, futuristic novels instead of utopian works? Why are we dystopian downer dudes/dudettes? Perhaps the reason lies in what Nietzsche said, “If you wish to strive for peace of soul and pleasure, then believe; if you wish to be a devotee of truth, then inquire.”

  1. Dystopia seeks to uncover truth in the morass of the present by projecting the problems of today into the future and amplifying them. When the author is successful at doing this, the writing immediately becomes more relevant.

Let’s face it, utopia is a bore. As readers, we sense utopia as innately unachievable. Humans aren’t wired for stories without conflict, and perfect-world scenarios are a bigger lie than the leap of faith it takes to jump us into dystopian futures. Likewise, we’ve lived the horrors of dystopia through two world wars. We’ve seen the gas chambers smoking, the walking skeletons griping barbed wire fences clinging for their lives, the groupthink and fascism, the thought control.

  1. When writing in a dystopian genre where the future usually isn’t so bright, one can draw on horrific examples of the past for macabre imagery. Keep in mind, almost all dystopian fiction uses stark, depressing imagery within the prose. What is crucial is to create something unique that will stick in reader’s minds.

Much more based in the reality we know and understand, dystopia magnetizes a reader’s sense of fatalism when we speak of hopelessly deadlocked politics and looming social and economic problems we all see habitually. The battlefield spreads itself wide and far in dystopian novels, where the imagination can dive into futuristic minefields. Considering the current political landscape and where we seem to be headed, a resurgence of the adult dystopian theme is inevitable (young adult seems to be already saturated and lacks a certain tie to the present in most cases).

  1. The key to writing great dystopian fiction is to entrench yourself in current affairs. Does it piss you off? If so, then the fire in the belly will help you create great prose. Can you transfer it to paper? After each passing day, the narrative lie becomes the inkling of truth. Militarization of the police force, Ferguson, Edward Snowden and his NSA revelations, BigDogs, Petman and advanced robotics, crony capitalism and a ballooning kleptocracy in a perpetual state of war are all spicy ingredients for the next dystopian stew. Will you be the one to write it? I don’t know, but you as the author have a chance to say something, to slam home a point, so don’t let the opportunity slip away. How do you see the world differently and how can you express that through your characters without writing a diatribe on your beliefs? Therein lies the art of dystopian fiction. (Note: Of course, this works well in medieval/ancient fantasy, too. DC)
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Warfare for Writers 3 - Don'ts!

 Warfare for Writers 3 - Don'ts! Stuff Not To Screw Up!

In this post, Warfare for Writers 3 - Don'ts!, Timons Esaias debunks things that don't happen in the real world and shouldn't happen in your books.???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

You cannot pour gunpowder along the ground to use as a slow fuse. I know you've seen it in the movies and on television, but if you pour a trail of gunpowder for a hundred feet and put a match to it, you'll have about two seconds before it all burns.

One cannot close the eyes on a corpse simply by pushing them closed. They go back to whichever way they want to be. They used to put heavy gold coins on eyelids to keep them in place, now we just sew them closed (generally after removing the eyeball). Most readers don't know this, so you can get away with it, but if my wife finds out you've screwed this up she may come hurt you. And she's a physician, so she knows how.

Speaking of medical things, unless you're describing magical creatures or superheroes, resist the urge to knock characters out by blows to the head and then have them regain consciousness with no aftereffects. The typical result of such a blow is nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, vision problems, stability problems, and the utter inability to swing a battle-ax with any authority.

There have been, in history, a number of short swords that were made to be drawn over the shoulder, usually by people who fought on horseback. These swords have only one edge, so you don't cut off your ear or slit your own throat; and they are very short, because you simply can't draw a long sword from your back. Now you will see, in the literature, swords called "back swords," and you'll think these are the ones you draw from your back. No, they are usually swords you wear on your back while riding around the countryside, but then hang from your waist if you actually get into a battle.

Don't have people drawing katanas or longswords over their shoulders, or I'll have to come hurt you.

Please avoid another favorite Hollywood bullpuckey device, which is the baton-twirling change of grip on a sword. It looks way cool, but it's the stupidest move on the planet. All somebody has to do is touch that sword while you're not holding it, and presto, you're unarmed. Oh, by the way, that's when they can hit you, too.

Now folks have reversed grip on swords and daggers all through history, it's a common and useful move, but it's almost always done by gripping the blade in your off hand, and then reversing. Folks gripped their own blades a lot, especially when wearing leather or armored gloves. I bet you do it in the kitchen, sometimes, when cutting with a large knife. You can get really wicked action on a sword by holding it in front of you like staff, and suddenly sweeping right or left, with the blade out. You can roll an opponent off your blade and club him with the grip, or go the other way and roll him off, and sweep the point into him, with your arm right on it. If you're quick, you can trap his shield arm.

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Way of the Warrior: Conduct

Art Work by Eric Guerrero
Art Work by Eric Guerrero

Interesting fact: The longest bronze-age sword measured out at seventeen inches. Longer swords used on foot left the  warrior open to attack in close quarters.  DC

Way of the Warrior
: Code of Conduct  (Author Unknown)

Way of the Warrior: Content - If these sound like the Boy Scout Rules of Conduct, you wouldn't be far wrong. If the warrior in your novel has no flaws, he or she wouldn't be very interesting. Bring depth to your character by giving the warrior failings to overcome. While the warrior may strive to improve, he or she may not. DC

HONESTY AND JUSTICE

Be acutely honest throughout your dealings with all people. Believe in justice, not from other people, but from yourself. To the true Warrior, there are no shades of gray in the question of honesty and justice. There is only right and wrong.

POLITE COURTESY

A Warrior has no reason to be cruel. They do not need to prove their strength. A Warrior is courteous even to his enemies. Without this outward show of respect, we are nothing more than animals.

HEROIC COURAGE

Rise up above the masses of people who are afraid to act. Hiding like a turtle in a shell is not living at all. A Warrior must have heroic courage. It is absolutely risky, It is dangerous. It is living life completely, fully, and wonderfully. Heroic courage is not blind; it is intelligent and strong.

HONOR

A true Warrior has only one judge of honor, and this is himself. Decisions you make and how these decisions are carried out are a reflection of whom you truly are. You cannot hide from yourself.

COMPASSION

Through intense training the Warrior becomes quick and strong. He is not as other men. He develops a power that must be used for the good of all. He has compassion. He helps his fellow man at every opportunity. If an opportunity does not arise, he goes out of his way to find one.

COMPLETE SINCERITY

When a Warrior has said he will perform an action, it is as good as done. Nothing will stop him from completing what he has said he will do. He does not have to "give his word." He does not have to "promise."

DUTY AND LOYALTY

For the Warrior, having done some "thing" or said some "thing," he knows he owns that "thing." He is responsible for it, and all the consequences that follow. A Warrior is immensely loyal to those in his care; to those he is responsible for, he remains fiercely true.

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Cover Artists Series - 1

Cover Artists Series - 1

I've often seen posts on various social media asking for advice on getting a book cover done. I will showcase artists who will produce a cover for up to $700.00, as this artist will do. Some artist charge less. The main purpose of these posts is to show artists' work in different price ranges so the writer might make an informed decision on what is available to them within their budget.

The first artist is Trevor Smith. (Trevorsmithart.com)  He is an award winning artist, highly educated in art and who not only does book covers using 100% digital techniques, but is also a Fine Artist specializing in nature and landscapes, although those pieces cost much more.

Trevor did not do my covers.

As always, it's my desire that this series will provide value to my fellow authors. Dameon

Trevor Smith
Trevor Smith
Trevor Smith
Trevor Smith
Trevor Smith
Trevor Smith

 

These tend to be on the dark side of books. Of course, Trevor can be light and airy depending on what is needed.

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Warfare for Writers - 2

BLOG POST 2 IN THE WARFARE FOR WRITERS SERIES

I attended the World Fantasy Convention 2014 and I was fortunate to attend a presentation by Timons Esaias on Warfare for Writers. He graciously agreed to allow me to use his material for this blog, which covers ancient to modern eras. Timons is a great speaker and he is well known as an expert in the field of Warfare. I can’t thank him enough for his kindness and help. I hope he doesn’t mind my placing a few comments in the material.

The main classifications of military units and warriors

[These are the common types as they have existed in the "gunpowder era", which is roughly the last 700 years. Some of these types are already fading into history, some (like infantry and cavalry) have existed almost since war began.]

Land Units

Type Definition What individual is called
Infantry (Army) Infantry is the name for warriors who fight on foot, and generally arrive at the battlefield on foot, carrying their own weapons. ("Mounted Infantry" ride to battle, but fight on foot.) infantryman, soldier
Cavalry Warriors who arrive at the battlefield, and also fight, on the backs of animals (horses, camels, elephants, etc.). We now use the name for units using light, fast vehicles, including ("air cavalry") small helicopters. trooper, cavalryman
Dragoons Warriors who are both cavalry and infantry. They are trained to fight both mounted and dismounted. trooper, dragoon
Artillery Warriors in the artillery fight using projectile weapons too large for one person to carry.   They work in "crews," hence the term "crew-served weapon." They are not (generally) extensively trained to fight without their specific weapons. artilleryman, cannoneer (if using cannon, of course), artillerist

 Naval Units

Navy Warriors who fight at sea, aboard boats and ships sailor; seaman; also sometimes distinguished by the type of vessel, as in submariner
Marines This is a special unit of navies, basically infantry that is carried on board ships. They operate first as the police force for the ship. They can defend the ships in ship-to-ship combat and board enemies, or can also go ashore for land engagements. Marine (but NOT soldier)
Naval Infantry These are sailors trained to fight as land units, generally to man and defend coastal fortifications or port defenses. This often puts them in the role of artillerists. (They differ from Marines in not being trained to fight on ships, or to police ships. If moved by sea, they travel in transports, not warships.) sailor

Air Units

Air Force Warriors who fight in airplanes and helicopters, and sometimes zeppelins. Also includes the considerable number of people who provide ground services for this effort. (Most members of any air force don't actually fly in combat.) airmen

And Then There's

Coast Guard Many nations have them, but what they are varies considerably. In some countries they are people who protect the coastline, from on the shore. Often they are not an armed military unit at all. They may also rescue wrecked ships. In the US, they are another Navy, charged with rescue operations, drug inspections, buoy maintenance, river patrols, and ice-breaking. In WWII they drove landing craft, and in Iraq they patrol the Shatt al-Arab.

Nota Bene: These definitions are NOT absolute. I can think of a long list of exceptions to every single one on this chart, but they work in general. A reason for these "exceptions" is that units and forces tend to mutate over time, like the cavalry no longer having horses, even though that was once the very definition of that term. Everybody likes to try to do everything, too, so the US Army, for instance, has its own little navy, and its own air force. The Navy has an air force, and the Marines, though really part of the Navy, have their own air force, too, and bits of their own navy.

These terms are sufficiently generic (in English) that you could get away with using most of them in whatever culture or time you are portraying. But it's best not to assume too much, and to actually do the research to find out how things were done, and what they were called, in that culture. The permutations may amaze you ... and give you colorful details to employ.

This list also doesn't include the endless list of units and jobs with names like gunner, sapper, engineer, grenadier, bombardier, vedette, hussar, airborne and on and on.

 

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Tips for Writers - Biggest Mistakes on Amazon

These are a few comments to help market your book on Amazon. Short, and I hope, sweet Tips for Writers.

  • You need an Author's Page, Amazon Author Central.
    • Get your own Author URL
    • Bring in Twitter
    • RSS Feeds
    • Update your bio and your picture
  • Describe your book
    • Use Keywords and phrases a reader might search on
    • Keep it a blurb on your book, not other things like reviews.
  • Reviews
    • Don't hide your reviews where they don't belong, like in your book blurb
    • Use the Review section of your Author Central page
  • Let readers see your work
    • In a book store, you can leaf through a book, use the search option for that purpose on Amazon
    • Don't overlook this selling technique, - it works
  • Get real reviews
    • Don't use a poorly written review, use pro quality
    • The friends' and families' ultra short reviews don't get it done

 

 

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