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

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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

 

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

 

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

 

A Writer in Need.

Hi Jim.

I have always wanted to share stories as I have so many in my head constantly, but all I want to do is write some and get feedback as to whether I should go for it or not. Any suggestions as to where I could post something? Please note I work so time is limited sometimes.

-Maria nunes


Hi Maria,

Great question. So this is something that has plagued writers from the very get go. Personally, I would say to just write. I’m not kidding, forget the feedback until you have your stories out on paper. Once you do, then read them over once or twice. If they look good from your perspective and you’re happy with them, that is when you can start looking at feedback.

As an INITIAL FILTER I would say ask a trusted friend or family member. I use the term initial filter because in my experience family members and friends aren’t the most reliable critics of your work as they don’t want to offend you… however if even they say it’s bad, there’s a good chance you need to start over.

Now let’s say they give it a seal of approval and give you the usual song and dance about how great it is and how you need to get it published, now it’s time to look for a real critic. The best advice I can give you there is to seek out another writer. There are plenty here on wordpress that are willing to do peer edits in exchange for the same, or you could go to sites like Goodreads and join one of their writing circles. Have someone there look over your writing and see if there is any merit to it. They’re usually pretty good about giving you their opinions straight.

Another option would be to have a professional look at it. I would discourage this because… well they’re not cheap. $.10/word may not sound expensive, but when you’re like me writing books that go into the 100k word range… yeah that’s expensive.
Another option is to have a writing student look at it. A quick google search for student editors usually will give you a HUGE number of student editors that are nearly, if not as good, as professional editors, but they tend to do the job for around $100.

So those really are your best options. All I can say is be careful of which option you choose and do your research before hiring anyone if you go that route. There are con artists and schemers everywhere. Just be careful, okay?

I’m going to open this up to the comments section now. Readers, do you have any advice for Maria, would you be interested in looking her work over? Let her know in the comments below!



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.

You can also add me on Twitter!

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

 

Is Hollywood Truly Out of Original Ideas?

Statement: Hollywood is out of original ideas.

MYTH!!!

I hear this one all the time whenever ANOTHER transformers, or ANOTHER desperate attempt to make a good Fantastic 4 movie comes out. With all the hype and advertising, it seems like Hollywood is completely out of original ideas. These days, everything is based on something, be it a book, another movie, or a real life event that has been cannibalized beyond recognition, but does that mean that there are no decent original movies coming out?

Honestly, no, no it does not. There are original movies coming out all the time. I looked on a couple of showtimes websites today and, lo and behold, there were at least THREE original movies that were completely original scripts. Seriously, go check it out, they’re there, and they’re waiting to be discovered.

So if that’s true, then why do people think that Hollywood is out of original ideas? Well… that’s a tougher question to answer. Let’s go back in time a little, shall we?

In 1977 Star Wars came out… and it was AWESOME! Yes, the movie became something that not even Lucas himself could have foreseen. This was a movie that broke records and became one of, if not THE FIRST Blockbuster movie. You know the type, high budget, huge effects, all the stops pulled out along the way.

Now, as awesome as that sounds, it came with its own set of consequences… From that moment onward, Hollywood began its quest for the next big blockbuster hit… and the search was not pretty. Dragonslayer, Krull, Legend, The NeverEnding Story (unfortunately in the U.S.), among other high-budget films turned out to be box office nightmares that didn’t make back their original budget. Hollywood producers began to notice a pattern and slowly began to shy away from original scripts. Suddenly anything that wasn’t based on a book or something that people were familiar with, were shied away from.

Does that mean that Hollywood stopped making original films? Hell no. They still do, we just don’t see the same amount of marketing put into them. As I said, Hollywood shies away from original scripts for the above reason, so when an original script get’s green-lit, it’s unlikely that a lot of advertising will be put into it by the studio. The exceptions being if a well-known screenwriter put’s the script forward, as was the case with Avatar. The next time you decide to take a loved one to the movies, or just decide to go… just because, take a look at what’s being offered. You’ll see two or three movies listed that, chances are, you’ve never heard of. You’ll stand there like, ‘I’ve never heard of that… what the heck?’ and most likely won’t even give it a second glance.

Well… THAT WAS YOUR ORIGINAL MOVIE! That’s right, in most cases, those are the original scripted movies that Hollywood put’s out, but sort of hopes you won’t notice that they exist. I encourage you to give them another look. Maybe not see it right then and there, but research it. Look at what it’s about and maybe go see it next time or rent it. 

Obviously, there is going to be some risk. These movies are really hit or miss, arguably more so than the big blockbusters…. (Fantastic 4 not withstanding), we still have original scripts like the previously mentioned Dragonslayer and Legend, but if we don’t go see these movies and send the message to Hollywood that we are engaged and interested in original ideas… then nothing is ever going to change.

Again, I encourage you, take a look at the movies listed the next time you decide to go. Check out the titles you don’t recognize and see if the plot is something you find interesting. You may surprise yourself.

… Just please, do me a favor and stay FAR FAR away from The Age of Adaline. No, I’m not even kidding… and if you don’t know why, go read my book, Divinity and you’ll understand. Seriously AVOID!!!

🙂

Anyway, thanks friends, and enjoy!


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