A Picture or a Thousand Words?

Hey, Jim.

 

I wanted to ask you a rather strange one. I’ve been working on my book for a while and I use a lot of concept images when I write. I like them because they help me better describe my characters. You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words?

Well I’ve been looking at a few of my recent works and thought that they might look good in the book itself. Do you think its a good idea to put these images in?

Thanks,
Nohri


 

Hi Nohri,

I actually do the exact same thing. I like creating visuals for my characters. That way I can really visualize what they are supposed to look like. So kudos on that.

As for putting them into the book itself…

Well I’ve heard two trains of thought on that one and unfortunately they conflict;

On one side, you have people saying that you absolutely shouldn’t do that. These are the same people who will tell you that adding too many visuals to your cover will take something away from the story because the reader will no longer be able to create their own visuals based on the writing. This argument has merit and in many cases, these people are absolutely correction.

That being said, on the other side you have the people who say that readers will form their own opinion and visuals regardless of what’s on the cover or if there are pictures in the pages. In fact many successful stories out there are indeed enhanced by good visuals. (See Neil Gaiman’s Stardust.)

Personally, I like to take the middle of the road, as usual. A few visuals aren’t a bad thing. Leave a lot to the reader’s imagination, but you don’t need to leave everything. I do also feel that the second crowd is correct that the reader will form their own vision regardless.

I for one absolutely love sharing my concept art and have included it in a couple of my stories… if the art is good enough, that is;

cropped-untitled-3.jpg

20170425_114339

So yeah, go ahead and throw some imagery in there, my advice is just not to overdo it. Don’t dictate to your reader what they should or should not be thinking, but feel free to give ‘hints.’

 

Hope this helps!

-Jim



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

 

The Double Standard of Art

 

I recently got into a discussion with someone over the rules of writing and grammar. He suggested that the rules of grammar and writing were too rigid and should be subject to change based majorly on what is/is not politically correct at the time.

While I agree that the rules can be very rigid and should be subject to change. Slang changes, words change meaning, period pieces really should be written in the vernacular of the time, and there are as many writing methodologies as there are words in any give language.

My issue comes with how/when the rules need to be changed and how much they should really be followed. As a writer, I don’t always follow the rules of grammar because when writing characters and having them speak with slang terms is often a nightmare to try to sort out. Thus I usually rely on my own personal style to fill in the blanks of how that is supposed to go. Not only that, there is no rule about how to write in a foreign language and then translate it should you want to, no rule about writing thought vs. speech, etc.

Thus in many cases the rules are more like guidelines and really should be references more than followed to the letter.

Now here’s where I don’t think the rules should be changed… they should not be changed to follow the passions/prejudices/social political issues of a time. What I mean by that is that a writer shouldn’t feel constrained to write within what is considered socially acceptable at the time. If you want to write something that may trigger someone, go for it. If you’re worried that someone will get offended or upset, that’s they’re problem, not yours.

Don’t get wrong, I don’t like the idea of someone writing something for the express purpose of pissing people off. That’s unprofessional and bad form, but if you’re trying to write something provocative and want people to think, I have no problem with that. As long as its not incitement, slander, or written for the express purpose of causing harm, I don’t have an issue with it.

I call bull! You’re constantly calling people out for what you consider bigotry and bad writing.

That is true, but have you ever seen me demand that they take down what they wrote? I call out the logic, hypocrisy, or negative stigma that comes with what they write. I do NOT report them or demand that any of it be taken down. They have a right to say what they say and they have a right to be heard. I have a right to disagree with what they say, voice my concern, and have an equal right to be heard. If someone doesn’t like what I have to say, they can unfollow me, block me, or call me out on it. I have no issue with it nor do I hold it against them. I welcome a little discourse and discussion because that’s how you get things done. The ONLY time I shut someone down is when the discussion turns into childish name-calling and insults. That is personally attacking someone and it is uncalled for and unprofessional.

Anyway back on topic. Why do people feel that writing needs to be censored and needs to cater to the passions, prejudices, and hurt feelings? History books omit certain triggering issues in classrooms, writers are hiring sensitivity editors, and even pieces like Mark Twain’s writing is being censored!

Why is this allowed to happen, when in most cases these are the same people who think that works of art like this should not be censored despite how offense it can be to christians:

Piss_Christ_by_Serrano_Andres_(1987)

They’re the same people admire Carroll Dunham’s work… despite how visually displeasing others (myself included) find it… They’re the same people who say that nudity in any medium, including movies shouldn’t be censored.

So why then is it okay to say that writing should cater to political correctness with literally no other art form does?

 



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Writing Music in Literature.

Hey, Jim.

 

I’m in the middle of writing a novel and I really want to convey the emotion of the scene I’m working on. I noticed you give out writing advice, so I wanted to ask you about this. I want to use songs the people know in my writing and give my characters reaction to the lyrics, but I’m worried about copyrights and what is/is not allowed. Is there a way I can pull this off without getting sued?

Thanks,
Meaghan


Meaghan,

Listen to me very carefully because I am deadly serious about this. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you be writing anything more than a brief quote (one line, TOPS!) into your novel from any copyrighted works, be it a song, a book, or any other written medium without written consent, a contract, or royalty agreement in place.

I can not stress this enough, don’t do it. Its a big no-no and it could land you in a lot of trouble. I personally don’t even quote full lines in my works. At most, I put in the artist’s name and song title. Then I’ll say something like;

“The couple came together as Linkin Park belted out the first line of Castle of Glass, their bodies twisted together as the song picked. When they were as one, unable to pull away from each other as the chorus played around them. Neither wanted the moment to end and as the last line was sung, their lips came together.”

 

You shouldn’t have much trouble conveying the emotions you want to by using this method. Other than that, you may need to choose a different song… I’d recommend writing your own or choosing something that’s in the public domain.

In any case, I hope this helps. My words of caution can’t really be overstated, for your own good I hope you heed them.

Readers, have you seen writing done this way? What advice would you give Meaghan? Let me know in the comments.

 



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

 

The Love/Hate with Relationship Writing

There seems to be a trend that is pretty well-established in Hollywood, but unfortunately has also inked its way into literature and other various art forms as well, and its one I do not like nor do I think its effects are positive.

What do I mean by that? Well let’s think about this for a moment; Name one TV show in recent memory where a relationship between two characters sprouted, and it actually survived the series. Same thing with movies… While I’m sure there are some out there, none immediately come to mind.

I started noticing it little by little over time, but then it really came to a head when it came to my wife’s turn to pick a movie for us to see… and she chose La La Land…

Okay my own issues with this movie aside, it ended on a real downer with the couple splitting up and going their separate ways, each getting the fame they wanted, but neither necessarily the better for it.

This is not the only example either… in Jurassic Park, Dr.s Grant and Satler split up between movies despite all the build up and character development that hinted towards the two of them having kids one day… essentially making the first movie’s character development pointless.

Indiana Jones wouldn’t see a recurrent love interest until the forgettable fourth film. National Treasure saw our lead kicked out of his own home by the love interest. In How I Met Your Mother, ONE a single relationship survives the series giving the series a .00001% success rate (blame Ted). In one of my wife’s favorites, Grey’s Anatomy, not even the marriage between the two main characters survived and a couple characters are struggling through their second marriages… the show is still ongoing so we’ll see how this goes…

In comic form, Cyclops leaves his loving wife and young son, and BOTH go through a character assassination for Jean Grey to return. She later gets killed off and Cyclops winds up with the White Queen. Colossus is now gay so… sorry Kitty!

Worst of all, perhaps the most entertaining relationship in Marvel; Mockingbird and Hawkeye didn’t survive.

Really the list just keeps on rolling. I see it in written form too…

But Jim, in this day and age, marriages don’t last. The odds are actually against it.

Actually the latest statistics are that between 40-50% of marriages end in divorce. That likely places the number at 45%. It also doesn’t take into account marriages of convenience, people who marry, remarry, and remarry again, nor does it take into account the behavior of the Hollywood cesspool.

Well Jim, wouldn’t you say that’s part of the problem? Look at the role models!

Not really… first of all, anyone who views the Hollywood elites as role models needs a dose of reality. That place is a cesspool of corruption, deviancy, and KNOWN child sex trafficking. Anyone who has children that look up to Hollywood celebs really need to re-examine their parenting.

Also, that statement doesn’t hold true anyway. Celebs that choose to keep their relationships out of the public eye… usually by moving out of LA, but also through other means which sometimes include reducing their career-load and/or exposure, survive just fine.

Christopher Lee, one of my all-time heroes was married for 54 years until his death.

Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. have stepped back from the spotlight taking more… behind the scenes and voice acting roles and they’ve been married for 12 years.

Kurt Russel and Goldie Hawn, two big names from the 80s and early 90s have been together for 34 years. You don’t see them in much anymore, but they do pop up from time to time.

Matt Damon has gone to impressive lengths to keep his family out of the spotlight and he’s been married for 12 years.

I get that these are the exception, not the rule, but they do further my point.

Anyway, yes I get it, we’re in the middle of a family crisis which I think writers and artists in multiple mediums are taking WAY too lightly. In many of these cases, we see these relationships end, and both parties go their separate ways. They don’t take into account the emotional, financial, and even psychological damage that can take place. It’s sort of glossed over in many cases.

That’s not even taking into account the effect it has on children, whom statistics and most mental health professionals show that children do better in stable, two-parent households.


This is really not good people. In my opinion, this has had a negative effect on almost ALL storytelling mediums in a very drastic and sad way. How you might ask? Consider… you watch a show or a movie and two characters get together that you really like. The couple is… for lack of a better term ADORABLE together. They get married and everything is going great. Given what’s been going on lately, are you going to get invested in that couple? Are you going to savor it?

Unlikely.

Given that the chances of said relationship surviving, especially if its early in the movie/book/series/etc, getting emotionally involved will just lead to disappointment later. The result? The great character development and immersion is lost on people who subconsciously put up walls to prevent the disappointment. Most of the time they aren’t even cognoscente of the fact that they’re doing it.

A few of my friends who have read my stories have said that they’re a little romance-heavy… well those are also friends who all to often turn out to be shocked when a relationship actually survives a movie series, TV series, or Book series.

That’s right, a strong successful relationship has been reduced to a PLOT TWIST!

Look I understand that not every relationship is meant to last, and you can argue that most people go through an average of 5 or 6 relationships before they find ‘the one,’ and you’d be right… but not marriages, live-in partners, or long term (4+ years) relationships!

So I’m not saying don’t write in breakups, don’t kill off the love interest, don’t not write about infidelity or divorce… what I am saying is that it might be refreshing to have successful relationships become a little more common… or at the very least try to take the damage done by parting ways more seriously instead of just glossing over it!

Anyway, readers what do you think? Am I being melodramatic or have you noticed something similar?



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Let’s Get Down to the Details

Hey, Jim.

I was wondering if you could give me some writing tips. I have a blog on WordPress where I write stories and poems. I’m not the best when it comes to giving details in stories, so I was wondering if you could help me out with that. I would really appreciate it

MJ


 

Hi MJ,

Great question, I’d be happy to help. Believe it or not, you’re not alone in this venture. Authors have struggled with how to provide detail for the longest time, while keeping the story interesting. There’s a bit of a disconnect between how to keep a story interesting so that your reader stays engaged, but not overloading them on details. Many an otherwise good novel has died on the alter of TOO MUCH FREAKEN DETAIL!

There is also the idea that the reader should be free to draw their own conclusions on what a world looks like based on a limited amount of information provided. It’s a good philosophy, but it’s one that puts extra burden on the writer to determine how much detail is just the right amount. With an audience that has a notoriously shrinking attention span, getting this right is absolutely crucial.

The best way to combat this is by using metaphor and comparison. Let me give you an example…

Here’s a fairly generic description of a scene from a story I was working on a while back:

“The night was cold. It must have been easily less than thirty degrees. The wind blew hard against Mike’s back, causing him to go numb. Not helping matters was how dark it was. The street lamps couldn’t compensate for it, making it hard to see where he was going. The road was long, easily about two miles. He could easily tell that he had a long way to go.” 

Believe it or not, this is actually really good description. It tells you exactly what’s going on, what the weather is like and how our character feels… but it’s not very interesting, is it? It’s almost robotic in its description, like it’s not intended to be interesting in any way. Now imagine a full book being like that…

Those are the types of stories that tend to get used to prop up furniture later on instead of holding a prominent space on ANYONE’s shelf.

So obviously we’re not going to get much out of that, are we? That’s not going to hold anyone’s attention… so let’s try adding comparison and a little metaphorical writing to it…

“The night was so cold that Mike was certain an Eskimo would have felt right at home. The wind felt like a sharp knife against his skin, causing him to go numb as he walked. The fact that it was so dark that he could not see where he was going didn’t help. The night loomed over him like a black veil that was so thick that even the dim yellow glow of the street lamps could barely shine through it. His journey was not going to end any time soon. The road appeared to stretch on forever, as though the path disappeared into the heavens on the horizon.”

Now which story are you more likely to want to continue reading, the first or second one? Chances are the second one held your attention longer, why? Because it let your mind get an idea of how cold it was, it let you feel the character’s pain instead of just throwing information at you. Even if it is a little bit longer than the bare bones description, this will keep a reader engaged a lot easier.

But Jim, how much is too much? 

Well that’s struggle number 2. How much information is too much? Again, it’s in the details. Let’s take a look at a description of something from a story:

“The tapestry was blue, bright blue. John honestly couldn’t decide if it was royal blue or navy blue. There were several different shades of blue that fit into those two categories that it could have been either in the spectrum. It also had gold trim that was shiny and knitted together with little red lace. It must have been hand-sewn because the lace was so delicate, no machine could have done that. John started to wonder what that thread was made of.”

Oh God…

These are stories where you can easily skip over entire paragraphs without missing anything essential to the story and believe it or not, there are enough of these to fill the Library of Congress. So what could we honestly do away with here? Well unless the detailed description of the tapestry were somehow crucial to the story (which it rarely is), we can probably do away with most of that:

“The tapestry was blue, bright blue. John honestly couldn’t decide if it was royal blue or navy blue. There were several different shades of blue that fit into those two categories that it could have been either in the spectrum. It also had gold trim that was shiny and knitted together with little red lace. It must have been hand-sewn because the lace was so delicate, no machine could have done that. John started to wonder what that thread was made of.

Yeah, even that could be considered too much. Simply saying ‘blue tapestries adorned the walls’ would in most cases be sufficient

So MJ, I hope this helps. The use of metaphor and comparison writing will give the reader a lot more to think about than just a bland description.

Readers, what do you think? Do you have other advice you can offer MJ?

Let us know in the comments!



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

 

Fantasy Movies?

I got a request a while ago to recommend a few good fantasy movies. I’m going to assume they meant besides Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. So… let’s get into them.

  1. Nausica of the Valley of the Wind.
    Pretty much any studio Ghibli movie would do, but this one is considered Miyazaki’s grand masterpiece… and its my favorite.
  2. Army of Darkness
    Yeah yeah… I know the evil dead series is supposed to be Horror/Suspense/Thriller, but this one is definitely way outside the norm for those movies. This is not the same thing.
  3. Sinbad the Sailor
    ANY Sinbad the Sailor movie. Even the lesser-known ones are spectacular in their own way. I literally have all of them on DVD and love them!
  4. Merlin (1998)
    This little-known made of TV movie starring Sam Neill (Jurassic Park, Even Horizon) is about as close to the source material as one can get while still making an enjoyable movie. It is sad and laced with tragedy all throughout and the effects haven’t aged well… but the ending really saves it. Watch it all the way through and it will become a memorable movie you’ll love for years to come.
  5. The Secret of Nimh
    Don Bluth movies hold a very special place in my heart, and this one is no exception. They often appear dark and drab, but the substance of the story is really incredible… just stay away from the sequel.
  6. Big Trouble in Little China
    Hahahahahaha… Just go… go watch it. Never in your life will you see another movie that makes you smile and applaud while asking the person next to you ‘What the hell did we just watch?’ like this one. It’s a total classic for all the wrong reasons.
  7. How to Train Your Dragon
    Yeah, didn’t think a Dreamworks movie would make it on here, did you? Well it did. This is about as close to Norse Mythology as most modern kids’ movies get.
  8. The Black Cauldron
    Sigh… I know a lot of people hated this movie, but it stars John Hurt, arguably one of the most underrated actors of all time and I honestly really enjoyed it.
  9. Stardust
    Loved the book, love the movie. This is a romance between a Fae (Star) and a human. It’s funny, suspenseful, and extremely light/warm-hearted. It’s a good watch.
  10. The NeverEnding Story
    The book is surprisingly better than the movie… I didn’t think it would be possible, but it is, and in comparing the two, I can see why Michael Ende wanted his name off of the movie.
  11. Maleficent
    Ehh… You could switch this out with the original Sleeping Beauty, but either works.
  12. Labyrinth
    Campy and really light-heart. I love this movie… just don’t look directly at the crotch. (Most ladies and some guys know what I’m talking about.)
  13. Clash of the Titans
    1981!!! I cannot stress this enough, go with the 1980 version. It is infinitely superior!
  14. The Last Unicorn.
    Beautifully animated, abbreviated retelling of the classic story. The only downside are the terrible musical numbers.
  15. Willow
    Sort of a retelling of Star Wars in a High Fantasy style story, but great none-the-less.
  16. Return to Oz
    This is the movie you punish your kids with and can get away with because it has a PG rating. (I know, I’m a bad man!) But even as an adult, it’s a freaky yet fascinating movie.
  17. Legend
    Tim Curry as Darkness… that’s… pretty much anyone can say about it.

Anything I missed? These aren’t the hugely known movies we all flock to, but are worth mentioning!

 



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

The Right Theme

Hi Jim,

I’m having a horrible time trying to come up with a theme for my story! I’m trying to map everything out before I write. I was wondering if you had any advice? What themes do you like?

Thanks,
Lawrence


Hi Lawrence,

Well I’d honestly say to start writing. If you have ideas, make notes, get them down on paper and then see what themes are covered when you write it. Some people have to plan this kind of thing out beforehand, I personally don’t like to. I write and see where it takes me and then figure out what themes to focus on when I go back to edit and polish the writing up.

What themes do I like? Well I usually write about love. Most of my stories deal with a romance between two unlikely creatures (Elf/Human, Angel/Human, Demon/Angel, Demon/Human, Undead Human/Human, Undead Human/Demon, etc.) and tackle the issues that they would come across in the time periods I set them in.

However a second theme has crept into a lot of my work thus far. I don’t know if there is a name for it, but basically it deals with the end of magic.
In Magnifica, I deal with what would happen in our modern world if suddenly the mystic and mythological became real or it was revealed that they actually were real. At first, things seem to work fine… Elves and dwarves are integrated into human society… but then, those imbued with Magic begin summoning Dragons,, centaurs, and other mythical beasts begin to appear, things become more hectic. In the end, one young human that’s given magical powers sees what’s happening, sees the clash of his world and the mythical and decides to rid the world of magic before things get worse. Essentially, society has evolved beyond the need for magic and it no longer has a place. He becomes the last enchanter and eventually returns to being a normal human.

In the Divinity Series, Adalyn and Xaphan are both angels on opposite sides of a now-ended Celestial War. In both of their stories, they are sent to the human world; Adalyn was banished there while Xaphan was hidden there. They both fight to protect their worlds and both wind up giving up their wings in the end. Adalyn trades hers for a mortal heart while Xaphan gives up hers for the chance of redemption.

It’s a theme I’ve always been fascinated by. We often see in Lord of the Rings, King Arthur, and several others. The modern age is beginning and as such, the ways of old… the old beliefs, the old Gods, and the old powers are quickly explained away by science and practicality. These stories do this in a more literal sense. Instead of the beliefs going away we see these ancient myths and powers literally clash with the real world or elements of it. In the end, magic and mysticism is fighting a losing war to remain relevant.

Lady Galadriel said it best:
“The time of the elves is over. Do we leave Middle Earth to its fate? Do we let them stand alone?”

Anyway, I know I rambled a little, but I hope this gives you some ideas of what to do and where to take your writing from here.

Thanks!
Jim



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim