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Several things recently got me thinking about the difficulty of creating solid, flesh and blood and sympathetic characters, even when those characters do things that you can never imagine yourself doing.
The first was an interview with John Boyne who has done it time and again in his novels. The next was starting to read Milkman, this year’s Man Booker prize winning book. I have so far only read the first 50 pages, but already it is teaching me things about our recent history and about the craft of writing from deep inside the head of a character. Set in Northern Ireland during the 1970s it appears to be an indictment of the stifling masculinity and the paranoia that drove the violence on both sides of the sectarian divide.
The second thing was this article by a woman film maker about the way men portray women and her admiration for two movies in which women have, in her opinion, successfully portrayed men.
When I think about my own writing I can’t escape the conclusion that too many of my characters are merely poor reflections of aspects of myself. But I also think that the problem of men portraying women, and vice-versa, is just one facet of a much more complex problem: can a heterosexual accurately portray a homosexual? A white middle class person a poor immigrant? Any of us any other person’s deep inner personality and thought processes?
It is important because the narrative arts – theatre, film and literature – are the windows through which the rest of us are enabled to experience the lives of others. If those lives are miss-represented then it creates the cultural attitudes that drive some men to behave inappropriately toward women or certain politicians to spread fear of migrants seeking a better life. And, conversely, it is the way that better life is portrayed in the media that attracts those migrants in the first place.
I’ll say no more, but hand you over to Joey at:
Submissions are open at Electric Literature for personal essays. They pay $50. But you only have the next ten days in which to submit. Read the guidelines here: https://electricliterature.com/submissions-are-open-for-general-and-critical-essays-b7e9ac3aa18a
As you know, I have a story in the anthology “The Box Under The Bed”. The book presently has almost 50 reviews on Amazon, some good some not. None of them tells potential readers about the individual stories. Now someone has done just that. Not on Amazon, but on his own website.
I’m sharing it with you here because it will tell you what he thought of all the stories so that you will have a better idea of whether it’s a book you would like to read. Of course I’m pleased that he found mine “deeply descriptive and engaging” That’s what I aim for in all my writing.
His final verdict on the whole book is that there are “Not enough [bad stories] for me to tell others not to read it . . . The diamonds, the strong stories, are well worth the cost of the book alone.”
If you thought being a writer was just a matter of sitting down and putting your thoughts onto paper, this is for you. There’s a lot more to being an author, especially if you lack the backing of one of the big publishing houses. Even then, you still have to do a lot of this other stuff.
I recently read and reviewed the first book in this series. I can certainly recommend Ms Clarke’s Africa writings to anyone who wishes to gain a better understanding of that continent and its many and varied cultures.
I had a dream last night, not as earth shattering as Martin Luther King,
I’m not that famous and important, and frankly although I was standing on a stage too, no one was listening to me. Sad isn’t it?
Now most of us might dream of receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature and then being interviewed on a national Breakfast Show, simpering as the interviewer gushed about our brilliant book – right?
Well, my dream wasn’t like that. The stage morphed into a television studio and my interview went something like this:
INT: So, I understand Lucinda that hardly anyone bought your new book?
ME: Well a few did …
INT: Looking at this pre-order number on Amazon, well it’s a disgrace.
ME: I have at least 3 fans! I’m sure they ordered one and DH promised he would …
INT: I presume you told people about it?
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Just in case you thought that writing a novel – or any kind of book really – is the road to riches. And why even good books don’t always make the best sellers lists.
As we careen toward the New Year, many emerging writers have a goal to finally publish that novel and I hope you do! But the arts are kind of strange. We often get fixated on the creative side, without really understanding the business side of our business.
The publishing world is still in massive upheaval and it is a Digital Wild West. Old rules are falling away and new ones are emerging, but still? Knowledge is power.
In my book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World, I go into a LOT more detail and I highly recommend you get a copy if you don’t have one. I spend the first chapters of the book explaining how the various forms of publishing work so you can make an educated decision as you are building your brand.
All types of publishing have corresponding strengths and weaknesses and this is…
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