Words are all we have*

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Some things in this life you never get to experience. Because you’re a man and not a woman or vice versa. Because you’ll never travel to other galaxies or the other side of the globe. Because some things are illegal. Out of bounds, for whatever reason. Still, you’d love to know what it feels like. Enter time machine, travel agency and magic carpet number one: art. Special Mention: books.

Movie makers go on location. Theater makes use of props. Writers build worlds using words. Good actors make you forget they’re imitating life. Good writers do the same with dialogue and description. Photographers snap a shot, painters paint a picture. Writers can fit all creation into a single sentence.

Words are our tool and make believe is our trade. Still much of that make believe is based on or was inspired by actual fact. Real countries and cities, historical figures and incidents, scientific findings, visions for the future. Some draw upon personal experience and write about their field of expertise, some depend on the knowledge gathered by others and imagine the rest.

Imagining is the fun part. And it’s the tricky part. Unless you’re writing sci-fi, speculative, fantasy or paranormal, you have to get a fair amount of facts right. Geography, history and the laws of nature…mess with those too much and risk the wrath of many a disgruntled reader. I know how that feels. I’m a reader, and a viewer. There are currently two TV ads playing over here that supposedly take place in Brazil. And everyone speaks Spanish. Spanish! Brazilians speak Portuguese!! It drives me up the wall.

Seeking information has never been easier than in our day and age. It’s also never been easier to be led astray, to be misinformed, if you go to the wrong source. Moral of the story: Don’t assume anything. Check the facts. Double-check them. And if you bend the truth, be prepared to be slapped for it. I love researching stuff for my books because I’m so damn curious. You never know what you may find! You learn a lot on the way, things you may need later. Then again, very little of what you dig up may end up in your book. Still, most of it helps you get in the mood, create an overall feel, and pass it on to your readers.

And what of inner sceneries? I’ve always thought writing is a lot like acting with the exception that you don’t have a role to play, you play them all. (Plus direct after writing the script, do costume and set design, dialect coach… The whole shebang, really.) Every character has a history that colors everything they do. They have individual strengths and weaknesses, their own objectives, wants and needs, and different strategies to overcome obstacles. Imagine building all those inner sceneries, keeping them at the front of your mind all the time but never letting it show. That’s good acting. And that’s good writing.

In Perpetual Pleasure, I got to imagine what it would feel like to be immortal, never changing or aging. I got to live the life of a professional stunt performer. I got to be an old gent in a magical city three hundred years in the making. And the sex I got to have…holy hell! It all took quite a bit of research and a fair amount of imagination. And putting it all together is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Speaking of which…

Hey lady! Where’s my smut? It’s coming August 31 from Ellora’s Cave, thanks for asking! Since I now have the final copy, and since you’ve all read the official excerpt, right *hint hint wink wink*, I want to treat you to a new one, one that picks up where the first left off. But first I want to ask you something.

Readers! What sort of things kill a book for you, crash the magic carpet? Have you ever wanted to write an author and explain to them everything you believe they got wrong in a book? Did you write them? Scribes! Have you taken liberties with facts, knowingly or unaware, and been slapped for it? Do you enjoy researching your books or does it sometimes feel like a necessary evil? Inquiring minds want to know.

Sexcellent weekend, everyone!

*Samuel Beckett

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10 thoughts on “Words are all we have*

  1. B.Johnson

    Even if you’re writing science fiction there are things you’ll still need to get right because science fiction is still based on some fact and/or theory. While there is a lot of imagination involved if you get the fact/theory parts wrong a diehard sci-fi fan (or even a science knowledgeable persons) will definitely notice and some will definitely be quick to point out your incorrect data.

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    • Absolutely. Readers are willing to suspend disbelief up to a certain point, but the more you draw upon reality and hard fact, the more carefully you have to tread.

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  2. I love the research aspect, to a point. Sometimes, you do have to let go of the research and just fly and imagine. I think as long as it’s based somewhat in fact, other things are forgiveable.

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    • One thing I love about paranormal is that anything goes. Well, almost, as long as there is a solid inner logic in there somewhere. I love coming up with those explanations.

      I took liberties with the history and historical figures of Savannah while writing Perpetual Pleasure. I hope Savannahians will agree and approve. Those who don’t: please read the Author Note. And my apologies, but I couldn’t resist.

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  3. Words will always be a beautiful way to express ourselves and who we are. Sometimes we have trouble saying things out loud so we can write it to express it. Wonderful post.As for what kills a book, I will say when the author just jumps all around and it just so chaotic that you can’t focus on a story. I love to do research, even though sometimes it is not easy esp when you have to learn something that you have no idea about. It is the fun part, you are learning and you can never learn enough things.

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    • Thanks, Savannah! I gotta ask: do you mean head hopping or jumping back and forth in time, or…? One thing I’ve noticed is that some publishers allow head hopping and for some it’s a huge no-no. Done well, and that’s a though one, you’re with your H/h all the way as the scene progresses. Done poorly, you’re just backtracking trying to make out who’s talking and doing what exactly.

      I have a couple of story ideas that will never get written unless I grow a second brain and pair of hands or better yet a body that will go back to school and study study study. Writing what you know saves time, I guess. But I don’t wanna… Not all the time.

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  4. Becki Wyer

    One thing that kills a book for me is when the logistics of a scene don’t work. For example, if the lady is restrained with her hands behind her back in one sentence and the next sentence says she pulled him closer to her. Or, if she’s still wearing her underwear and then it says he entered her. That stuff drives me nuts.
    I also get turned off by the wrong spelling of a word being used (e.g. their, there, they’re).
    Even when these things bother me, I still try to stick with a book. It just saddens me when a storyline is terrific but the editing isn’t.

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    • I think there is no excuse for bad editing. Of course misspelling is only human, but there are countless programs out there to help you with your manuscript and even authors about to self-publish should make use of a fresh pair of eyes, preferably several, to catch both those spelling errors and the funky logistics you mentioned.

      I don’t think there is a writer out there who hasn’t gotten their share of WTHs. Extra hands or legs, clothes disappearing and reappearing, and so on. Thank goodness for friends, critique partners, beta readers and editors, we’d be lost without you! But I know what you mean. It’s a funny remark in the margins of your WIP. Not so funny when you see it in print and it’s too late to do anything about it.

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  5. I’m with you, Dita, always check and recheck. It’s amazing that some of those errors still slip through despite all the eyes reading it! Regarding research, I always try to confirm something through multiple sources. We all know that not everything on the Internet is correct!

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    • I know! I’m just as guilty and faulty as anyone, that’s why I feel the need to double-check everything, especially details like names and dates, and still I’ll find a comment in the margin asking, “Is this correct?” Good editors, line editors and proofreaders are worth their weight in gold, seriously. Kudos!

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