Jargon of the People

“You’re firemountain-glass, Dama.” He says this very softly. “You’re a gift of the earth-but Father Earth hates us, never forget, and his gifts are neither free nor safe. If we pick you up, hone you to sharpness, treat you with the care and respect you deserve, then you become valuable. But if we just leave you lying about, you’ll cut to the bone the first person who blunders across you. Or worse-you’ll shatter, and hurt many.” (Jemisin 38)

I wanted to start with this quote because how evocative it is.

Firemountain-glass – this may be because I’ve had geology classes, but already I can picture volcanoes spewing lava, where the molten rock cools into the shiny black rock that breaks so neatly, each piece resembling a sharp piece of glass – and cuts like one too. It’s so easy to compare Dama to this, aligning her with this image so quickly.

“Father Earth hates us” – with this piece, we crystallize the religion of the people, and although I’ve never been a fan of religion, I’m a huge supporter of beliefs. If someone has an opinion, I’m interested. Even if I care squat about religion, I care that they care. I love strong opinions.

You’re “valuable” and dangerous – I love how this single quote immortalizes the love/hate relationship people have with Dama’s species. It didn’t take but a single sentence to show me, but it shows how Dama can conjure fear and respect. All it took was opposites to illustrate Jemisin’s point.

These are just a few of the reasons I really love this quote. But, I think the most important piece of the quote is how it summarizes the jargon of the people. This shows me their voice, how they speak. It’s casual; it’s stressful. I can feel the weight this guy places on this little girl’s shoulders.

It’s hard to solidify voice, but by reading enough pieces with it, you can develop an idea.

The questions you should be asking, is how do I know he’s male?

Why does he sound like a judge? A teacher?

Why do I feel like he’s judging me?

Jemisin, N.K. Fifth Season. New York, NY: Orbit, 2015. Print.

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Artificial complexity

Life is not simple. Humans are not simple. I can tell you I love to eat, and I do like to cook, but based on my situation, my thoughts on cooking sway all over the spectrum, where sometimes I like to cook if I’m not tired and I don’t have to clean the kitchen afterwards, but if a mess must be made, I rather avoid the aspect of cleaning because I really don’t like to clean up after myself.

Just by explaining my conditions of when I like to cook can I show you how difficult we as people can be, which is harder to convey in writing than you think.

As writers, we shouldn’t have to spend five hundred words to basically state the fact that for the most part, I like to cook. But I still want to show you that my characters are complex because otherwise they don’t seem real. Everything real has a good side and a bad side, just like my bed in the morning.

And as always, I want to show you by example:

I feel curiously unmoved by what I’ve just done, although I wish the afterimages would go away faster-you’re supposed to use a blaster with flash-suppression goggles, but I didn’t have time to grab them. The blaster is a simple weapon, just a small T-gate linked (via another pair of T-gates acting as a valve) to an endpoint orbiting in the photosphere of a supergiant star. (Stross 37)

Here, Stross invented a new type of gun, the typical scifi blaster with atypical working conditions. But what I loved best about this paragraph was that not only is this a powerful weapon, small and easy to conceal, it also has some negatives associated with it. In this instance, when the main character used it, he was blinded, with mild burns all over his skin – the effects of being in contact with a gate linked to the photosphere of a supergiant star.

This seems real to me. Even when I think of a normal gun, I think of a deadly weapon, easy to deal damage, while a struggle to use because it kicks back on your shoulder, recoils enough that you lose sight of your accuracy. Take a look at any video game – I’m thinking of one in particular. Ever noticed how guns have all those attributes besides damage associated with them? They’re complex coding machines!

So in effect, I can take this rule and expand upon it. I can create complexity through opposites. By including positives and negatives about every want, every event, every item, I’m artificially making it complex, making it real.

And this works for just about everything in writing!

Stross, C. Glasshouse. New York, NY: Ace, 2006. Print.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Every time I read science fiction or fantasy, there’s the usual new power struggle, of defiance or denial – either way you want to think about it. And the book The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is no different.

“As the full powers of my adult consciousness returned to my child’s body, I fell first into a confusion, then an agony, then a doubt, then a despair, then a screaming, then a shrieking, and finally, aged seven years old, I was committed to St Margot’s Asylum for Unfortunates, where I frankly believed myself to belong, and within six months of my confinement succeeded in throwing myself out of a window on the third floor” (North 8).

I thought this was beautiful, not because of the style, but because it shows the truth of every ability or power. That there’s is ugly just as there is beauty. I think every book stands to look at the faults of not only their characters but the powers they experience.

Too often you read books where it’s shame, embarrassment and then overjoyed acceptance. This book tells the truth that there is suicide in the world, there are people who can’t handle it, and although this whole book is not like that, I appreciate that it went in that direction and experienced it.

Not much to comment on besides that. I think every book should show the flaws just as much as the strengths.

North, Claire. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. New York, NY: Redhook Books, 2014. Print.

Breaking expectations

When you’re mom exclaims, ‘Johnny! This is the first night you haven’t wet the bed! I’m so proud of you!!’ There’s good reason for her to be excited. Against all evidence, you’ve broken her expectations! When you’ve been wetting the bed since you were 6 and now you’re 13, she probably expected an ordinary night but instead there’s dry freedom! Congratulations! This situation awards you an accomplishment.

Of course the opposite is also true. You can break expectations in the reverse direction. If we’re following the moral compass…you can break expectations and fail spectacularly! As in, you’ve never crapped your pants before but as soon as you get a stomach bug in the middle of allergy season where you’re sneezing worse than that 27-sneeze girl in class, you do it. Yeah. You shouldn’t be proud.

This book is like that. Well, not the spectacular fail but instead breaking all expectations in a positive, dramatic way.

“Aside to his men [the Earth captain] whispered, “Now we’re getting someplace!” To Mr. Aaa he called, “We traveled sixty million miles. From Earth!” / Mr. Aaa [the alien]  yawned. “That’s only fifty million miles this time of year” (Bradbury 27).

How obnoxious! Here these Earthlings traveled all this distance, and no one gives *excuse my language* a crap. Absolutely none. No one could be bothered with this information.

And I love it!

I feel like the general expectation here is if you’re an ‘alien’ then people would react to you. There’s the War of the Worlds reaction: general dooms day apocalypse. There’s the welcoming with open arms, where the aliens donate their technology and culture, which I’m sure exists in some movie or book but whose name I can’t think of at the moment.

Either way, these all deal with reactions.

And this book has none, except boredom.

I like it.

By breaking all my expectations, there’s originality, creativity, and a disguised comment that I haven’t yet become aware of.

I’m enjoying the book so far.

Bradbury, Ray. The Martian Chronicles. New York, NY: Harper Perennial, 1997. Print.

Simplicity in Opposites

Let’s talk simplicity.

Simple = easy to understand.
–> Easy to understand = engaged reader.
—->Engaged reader = happy customer.

I’m in the middle of reading this story – which I’m doing abnormally slowly, proving that as soon as you’re in school, you get busy – and I read 4 sentences. Perhaps the simplest four I had come across so far in this story. Remember it = her child.

I don’t want to neglect it.

I’m going to neglect it.

I don’t want to hurt it.

I’m going to hurt it. (Cornell 38-39)

Wow. A while back I talked about opposites, how they’re great at forming your character because they establish a difference between wants/actions, and here we see exactly that. She wants something, but she isn’t going to do that. Why? Because she blames her parents.

Heavy.

But, this simplicity – these simple statements that go back and forth between what she wants, what she’s going to do, it really helps set this character up for her greatest fear, her greatest pitfall.

It’s an easy technique other writers can imitate to show this disparity between wants and her future actions/problems.

Cornell, Paul. “The Ghosts of Christmas.” Year’s Best SF 18. Ed. David G. Hartwell. New York, NY: Tor, 2013. 34-54. Print.